Judge Rules Defendants in Ahmaud Arbery Death Will Stand Trial

A judge ruled on June 4 that all three defendants charged in the death of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery will advance to the trial court for murder.
In a preliminary hearing on Thursday, Magistrate Court Judge Wallace Harrell concluded that there was enough evidence for the cases against the defendants to proceed with a murder trial.
Arbery was fatally shot on a residential street on Feb. 23 as he ran through the small Georgia neighborhood. Last month, three men were arrested in connection with his death after video footage of the incident emerged on May 5.
A father and son, Gregory McMichael, 64, and Travis McMichael, 34, were arrested and charged with murder and aggravated assault on May 7 in the fatal shooting of the 25-year-old. The individual who captured the 36-second mobile footage of the violent encounter, 50-year-old William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., was arrested on charges of felony murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment on May 21.
The footage, which was captured from a vehicle near the scene, showed the father, a former county police officer, confront Arbery. Shortly afterward, his son shot Arbery, the video showed.
The elder McMichael told officers previously that he and his son thought Arbery could have been a burglar, and so chased after him. According to a police report filed Feb. 23, the pair were in possession of a shotgun and a .357 Magnum revolver, and tailed Arbery in a white pickup truck as he ran.
The 64-year-old also claimed his son was attacked violently by Arbery, which is not evident in the footage. The video footage shows that at least three gunshots were fired.
During the probable cause hearing Thursday, the lead Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) agent in the case testified that the three defendants used their pickup trucks to chase down and box in the 25-year-old as he attempted to escape the confrontation.
GBI agent Richard Dial said that after examining the footage of the incident, it was clear that Arbery was first shot in the chest, then in the hand, and the third shot hit his chest before he collapsed. Bryan told investigators that the gunman used a racial slur as he stood over Arbery as he lay dying, Dial testified.
Dial testified that the elder McMichael told police that “he didn’t know if Mr. Arbery had stolen anything or not, but he had a gut feeling” that Arbery had committed prior break-ins in the neighborhood.
Special prosecutor Jesse Evans told the judge during the hearing that Arbery was “…chased, hunted down and ultimately executed.”
“He was on a run on a public road in a public subdivision. He was defenseless and unarmed.”
News that the younger McMichael made an inflammatory remark as Arbery lay dying comes after the attorneys for Arbery’s family last week said the Department of Justice (DOJ) is investigating the his murder as a hate crime.
Georgia is 1 of 4 states in the United States that doesn’t have a hate crime statute. However, the victim’s family attorneys said an active hate crime investigation is underway.
They said the Justice Department had been sent excerpts of social media posts and emails from individuals who knew the McMichaels for years, suggesting a history of “hateful” statements. The DOJ is able to act as a “backstop” to prosecute hate crimes in states without a hate crime statute, or where the crime isn’t covered by state laws.
Dial testified Thursday that investigators found at least two racial slurs in messages on the younger McMichael’s phone, and police body camera footage showed a Confederate flag sticker on a toolbox in his truck.
Meanwhile, comments on Bryan’s cellphone provided evidence of “racist attitudes in his communications.”
The DOJ, when contacted by The Epoch Times, pointed to a statement made earlier this month that it was reviewing the evidence in Arbery’s shooting death to “determine whether federal hate crimes charges are appropriate.”
Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones called the release of new details in court “very, very heartbreaking.”
“He was afraid,” Cooper-Jones said of her slain son. “Life had placed him in a position where I couldn’t protect him, and he wasn’t able to protect himself.”
All three defendants remain held without bond at the Glynn County Detention Center.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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US Needs ‘Aggressive’ Inspection Program for Imported Drugs: Grassley

A Senate hearing on the FDA’s oversight of foreign drug manufacturing has heard from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa that the CCP virus pandemic has highlighted the U.S. need for a “robust and aggressive” inspection program for drugs manufactured abroad.
Grassley, Chair of the Finance Committee, said on June 2 that the United States imports 13 percent of its active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) from China and 19 percent from India, while more than 70 percent of the facilities that make APIs are located abroad.
“These figures coupled with the COVID pandemic have got a lot of attention, including what might need to be done from a national security standpoint,” said Grassley, adding that over 50 percent of the manufacturing units where APIs are converted into final drugs are also located abroad.
“But, the figures do make clear what needs to be done from a drug safety perspective—we need to have a robust and aggressive foreign inspections program,” said Grassley.
Drugs produced in China and India have had a serious quality control problem, Grassley said, pointing to the recall of the drug “valsartan” that was found to contain contaminants used in rocket-fuel.
“Facilities in China and India produce that drug,” he said.

Senate Finance Committee holds hearing chaired by Grassley (R-IA) with drug manufacturers and FDA officials on the agency’s foreign drug manufacturing inspection process during COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. https://t.co/7F4QQFagqI @cspan, @cspanradio & online pic.twitter.com/81UXGLkBNG
— Craig Caplan (@CraigCaplan) June 2, 2020

Unannounced Foreign Inspections
Senators have criticized the FDA’s foreign inspections for being less stringent than the domestic inspections because of a practice that involves prior notice of the inspection to the manufacturers.
The Senators asked the FDA to “level the playing field” by doing more unannounced inspections at foreign manufacturing units to prevent deception during inspections at these facilities.
FDA Associate Commissioner for Regulatory Affairs, Judith McMeekin, acknowledged that most of the foreign inspections are pre-announced but that this was important for various reasons.
It helps to verify that the foreign manufacturing unit falls within the FDA’s jurisdiction and that personnel and records are maintained, she said.
McMeekin added that the FDA’s statutory inspectional authority, 21 USC 374, is not applicable at foreign facilities and that pre-announcement helps the FDA’s inspection team gain permission for inspection.
The FDA hasn’t committed to changing its practices about prior-announcement, but according to Lexology, a law business research portal, pressure from Congress may lead to an increased number of unannounced inspections.
Inspections Suspended During Pandemic
The FDA has indefinitely suspended its routine foreign inspections during the pandemic. However, the agency has also taken measures to ensure the safety and quality of foreign manufactured drugs during this time.
Officials told the Senate hearing that measures include increasing physical checks at the U.S. border, checking foreign manufacturer’s compliance history, denying entry to drugs that don’t meet standards, working with foreign governments for mutual quality control, and requesting documents from the manufacturers “in advance of or in lieu of” on-site drug inspections.
Follow Venus on Twitter: @venusupadhayaya

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Kanye West Donates $2 Million, Covers College Tuition for George Floyd’s Daughter

Kanye West has donated $2 million to the families of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, with part of the fund going towards the education of Floyd’s daughter.
The American rapper’s donation will include funding for struggling black-owned businesses in his Chicago hometown and other cities across the United States, and will help cover legal fees for both Arbery’s and Taylor’s families.
A representative for West told CNN that the college tuition for Floyd’s 6-year-old daughter will be fully covered by a 529 education plan.
Kentucky medical worker Breonna Taylor, 26, was killed in her home on March 13 when law enforcement officers executed a “no-knock” drug warrant after midnight. Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired a handgun, which he legally owned, believing that the Louisville home he and Taylor shared was being broken into.
In the confrontation, a police officer was struck by a round. Police returned fire, hitting Taylor eight times, resulting in her death. No drugs were found in the home. Her case is currently under investigation by the FBI.
The Department of Justice (DOJ), meanwhile, is investigating the February murder of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery near Brunswick, Georgia, as a hate crime.
Arbery was fatally shot on a residential street on Feb. 23 as he ran through the small Georgia neighborhood. Three men were arrested in connection with Arbery’s death last month after video footage of the incident emerged on May 5.
Community activist and onetime mayoral candidate Ja’Mal Green Chicago, who organized the protest with Chicago Public Schools students, said that West, 42, attended the Thursday protest to show solidarity with Floyd and to support their calls for Chicago Public Schools to terminate a contract with the Chicago Police Department for police at schools. They’re asking for schools to prioritize funding for therapists, extracurricular activities, and restorative justice.

Floyd was a 46-year-old black man who died last week in police custody in Minneapolis after an officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
A widely circulated video showed Floyd lying face-down on the pavement and handcuffed, as an officer was seen kneeling on the man’s neck for nearly 9 minutes. Meanwhile, the footage showed Floyd telling officers that he couldn’t breathe before his body went motionless.
According to a Minneapolis Fire Department report (pdf), Floyd was unresponsive and “pulseless” when he was being transported into an ambulance by paramedics from the site of his arrest to the hospital.
The police officer who was seen kneeling on the man’s neck, Derek Chauvin, on Tuesday had his charges upgraded from third-degree murder, to second-degree murder charges. Under Minnesota law, second-degree murder is defined as when a person causes the death of another person with intent without premeditation.
The three other police officers involved in the arrest have since been fired, and have been charged with aiding and abetting his murder, the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office revealed Tuesday.
The “Justice for George Floyd/CPD out of CPS” demonstration West joined was on the city’s South Side on Thursday evening, and was one of two taking place across the Chicago.
Green posted to Facebook, “Man Kanye called me yesterday and said he wanted to pop up at a protest. He wanted to just blend in. He donated 3 million to George Floyd family today. Regardless of how you feel about him, I appreciate him for his good deed and marching with young people to end CPD’s contract with CPS!”

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Two Ex-Cops Charged in Floyd’s Death Were Rookies: Attorneys

MINNEAPOLIS—Two of three Minneapolis police officers accused of aiding and abetting in the death of George Floyd were rookies barely off probation when a more senior officer ignored the black man’s cries for help and pressed a knee into his neck, defense attorneys said Thursday.
Earl Gray said his client, former Officer Thomas Lane, had no choice but to follow the instructions of Derek Chauvin, who has since been charged with second-degree murder in Floyd’s May 25 death. Gray called the case against his client “extremely weak.”
A judge set bail at $750,000 apiece for Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao, when they made their first appearances in Hennepin County District Court Thursday. Simultaneously, and just blocks away, celebrities, friends, and relatives gathered to memorialize Floyd at a Bible college.

From left, Derek Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao. (Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office via AP)
The Minneapolis Police Department fired all four officers last week and charged Chauvin—initially with third-degree murder—the following day. But protests that began on the streets of Minneapolis quickly spread across the nation, calling for justice for Floyd and other African Americans who were killed by police.
On Wednesday, the three other officers were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder. If convicted, they potentially face the same penalty as Chauvin: up to 40 years in prison.
Gray said Thursday that all Lane did was hold Floyd’s feet so he couldn’t kick, and he underlined that the criminal complaint says Lane asked Chauvin twice if they should roll Floyd over and expressed concern that Floyd might be in delirium. He said Lane performed CPR in the ambulance.
“What was my client supposed to do but follow what his training officer said? Is that aiding and abetting a crime?” Gray asked.
Gray and Kueng’s defense attorney, Tom Plunkett, asked the court for lower bail, saying their clients had been police officers for just four days when Floyd was killed. Police records indicate that while the men were rookies, they had more experience than a handful of days on the force. According to their records, they joined the department in February 2019 and became full officers in December. Minneapolis officers must serve a year on probation and spend time in field training with a more senior officer before they are fully qualified.
Kueng, who is black, became a police officer because he “wanted to make his community a better place,” Plunkett said. He said Kueng was raised by his single mother on Minneapolis’ predominantly black north side.
Plunkett and Thao’s attorney, Robert Paule, did not address the merits of the charges in court and declined to comment after the hearing out of respect for Floyd’s family during the memorial.
Judge Paul Scoggin set their next court dates for June 29. Gray said he plans to renew his arguments for lower bail then, saying it could take more than a year for Lane’s case to go to trial.
A date for Chauvin’s first court appearance has not been set, and his attorney has not publicly commented on the case. The latest criminal complaint says his actions were a “substantial causal factor in Mr. Floyd losing consciousness, constituting substantial bodily harm, and Mr. Floyd’s death as well.”
The complaint against Lane, 37, notes that while he suggested to Chauvin that Floyd should be rolled over he “took no actions to assist Mr. Floyd, to change his position, or to reduce the force the officers were using against Mr. Floyd.”
Kueng’s complaint says the 26-year-old was positioned between Chauvin and Lane and could hear their comments. Thao, 34, was seen in the cellphone video standing near a crowd of bystanders, and his complaint says although he fetched a hobble restraint—designed to restrict the movement of a person in custody—from the squad car, “the officers decided not to use it and maintained their positions.”
Gov. Tim Walz and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights have ordered a civil rights investigation of the police department to determine how to address racial discrimination and create systemic change.
By Steve Karnowski

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George Floyd Remembered at Memorial Service in Minneapolis

MINNEAPOLIS—Celebrities, musicians and political leaders gathered in front of George Floyd’s golden casket Thursday for a memorial service in Minneapolis at a sanctuary at North Central University. Floyd, a 46-year-old out-of-work bouncer, died May 25 after a police officer put his knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes as Floyd lay handcuffed on the pavement, saying […]

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Judge: $750,000 Bail for 3 Ex-Officers Accused in Floyd’s Death

MINNEAPOLIS—A judge set bail at $750,000 apiece Thursday for three fired Minneapolis police officers charged with aiding and abetting in the killing of George Floyd, as a memorial service took place just blocks away. Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng made their first appearances in Hennepin County District Court as friends, relatives and […]

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Major Cyber Command program will cost more than first thought

One of U.S. Cyber Command’s major programs, Unified Platform, is expected to cost five times more than military officials originally estimated, according to a report from Congress’ watchdog agency.Unified Platform will consolidate and standardize the variety of big data tools used by Cyber Command and its subordinate commands to allow forces to share information more easily, build common tools and conduct mission planning and analysis.
To date, few details have been available regarding the program’s history, scope, contracting strategy and progress.
According to the Government Accountability Office report, published June 3, the Unified Platform program was missing an approved cost estimate informed by independent analysis and a formal schedule risk assessment in August 2018. This year’s report marked the first time Unified Platform was included in GAO’s annual review of major defense acquisition programs.

“Our prior work has shown that this type of information is important to help decision makers make well-informed decisions about middle-tier program” initiation, the report said.

Cyber Command, however, has since approved requirements and the Air Force Cost Analysis Agency independently assessed its cost estimate.
That cost estimate, GAO found, was five times greater than when the program first began. This new estimate includes costs beyond completion of the current middle-tier acquisition effort and is attributed to new requirements from Cyber Command.

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Software factory
Part of Unified Platform’s development has included the creation of a software factory. This involves “containerizing” applications as a means of providing a more flexible platform and infrastructure with a set of standards.

The GAO found that Unified Platform’s approach for DevSecOps software development differs from industry best practices, which seeks delivery of software to users on a continuing basis as frequently as every one to six weeks. Currently, the program fields new features at the end of every three month increment.
Thus far, the program has delivered 32 features through the first four increments with the first prototype – increment 1 – accepted by Cyber Command in April 2019.
Cyber Command officials determine if the software is ready for operational deployment once it is completed.

At the time of the assessment, GAO also found that the program had yet to complete its cybersecurity strategy. Program officials told the agency that it anticipates approval of this strategy by August.
“Not addressing cybersecurity issues sooner may increase risk to the program,” GAO said. “Our past work has shown that not focusing on cybersecurity until late in the development cycle or after a system has been deployed is more difficult and costly than designing it in from the beginning.”
Additionally, the program office was slated to conduct its annual authority to proceed to review in April 2020, a full year after delivery of increment 1.
Those briefs, provided to the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force (Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics), allow him to determine if funding needs increase or decrease by 25 percent each year or if the number of development teams for accomplishing requirements increase or decrease by 25 percent.

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New Jersey Becomes First State to Require K-12 Climate Change Education

Climate change will be taught in the classrooms from kindergarten to high school in New Jersey, under the new standards adopted by the state Board of Education on Wednesday.
The new standards, which is going into effect September 2021, require school districts across the Garden state to add climate change education into all seven teaching areas, including science, health, social studies, arts, and world languages.
Gov. Phil Murphy’s wife Tammy, who championed for the incorporation of climate change into the state’s K-12 curriculum, said it is important to make sure all New Jersey public school students learn about climate change, because they “will feel the effects of climate change more than any other generation.”
Speaking to the State Board of Education following the approval on the new standards, she said the New Jerseyans “have already begun to experience the effects of climate change,” citing sea level rise on the Jersey Shore, superstorms, and extreme summer heat.
“A top priority of my Administration has been to reestablish New Jersey’s role as a leader in the fight against climate change,” said Gov. Phil Murphy, adding that climate change education helps prepare children for future “new green jobs” as New Jersey is steering towards a “green energy economy.”
The Democratic governor unveiled earlier this year his plan to “wean the state off its century-old addiction to fossil fuels.” To achieve the goal of 100 percent “carbon neutral” energy, New Jersey is implementing a host of regulations, such as requiring builders to take carbon-dioxide emissions into consideration before seeking permission for a project, the first of the kind in the United States.
Former Vice President Al Gore, a climate change advocate and Murphy’s ally on environmental issues, welcomed the new education standards, saying in a statement that the students will be depended upon to lead the future fight against the “climate crisis.”
Climate change has long been a controversial topic in public education. A 2019 NPR/Ipsos poll found that the support of climate change education roughly followed party lines. According to the poll, 9 in 10 Democrats and two-thirds of Republicans believed climate change should be taught at public school, whether they have children or not.
In other findings, nearly 90 percent of public school teachers agreed that climate change should be taught. However, less than half of them said they had actually raised the subject in their classrooms. As for parents, only 45 percent of them said they had ever talked about climate change with their children.

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Academics Nationwide Offer Aid and Support for Rioters

University professors across the country have publicly expressed support for the rioters who have been terrorizing communities since graphic video of the May 25 death in police custody of George Floyd was published.
Floyd was a middle-aged black man who died after then-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, a white man, pressed his knee into the suspect’s neck for almost 9 minutes as he lay handcuffed on the ground. With its racial overtones, video of the incident quickly went viral and became a recruiting tool for left-wing agitators.
Protests, rioting, and looting followed after news of Floyd’s death swept the country. As The Epoch Times has reported, a phalanx of leftist groups, including Antifa and Democratic Socialists of America, has been involved in generating civil unrest amidst a depressed economy and as most Americans have been locked down as part of the effort to contain the spread of the CCP virus that causes the disease COVID-19.
Academics have made public statements in recent days showing solidarity with the violent mobs that have been attacking police and destroying property while they cause mayhem.
Northwestern University journalism professor Steven Thrasher hailed rioters for burning down a police station in Minneapolis, telling NPR it was “a very proportionate response to what’s happening.”
Thrasher asserted without proof that “the violence is being done by the police themselves.” He said the “rebellion” was justified “because the police are the ones that are enforcing an extremely unfair social order. They lynched George Floyd in broad daylight on video.”
Kitty Eisele, a journalist and adjunct professor at Georgetown University, lamented that rioters had not attacked the Trump International Hotel in the nation’s capital, as the Washington Free Beacon reports.
“Shame they aren’t noticing the Trump Hotel which costs more and has a more problematic clientele,” she wrote on Twitter. The hotel, a few blocks from the White House, is frequented by Trump administration officials and political allies.
Syracuse University political science Jenn M. Jackson tweeted that the police are part of a racist system, Campus Reform reports.
“[C]ops … are employed in an institution meant to eradicate Blackness. The philosophical principles of being a police officer are racist and anti-Black. They are required to do terrible things.”
Anthropology professor Sarah Parcak of University of Alabama-Birmingham, wrote a Twitter thread on “how to pull down an obelisk safely.” The procedures “might come in handy” for anyone trying to topple “racist monuments.”
Antifa sympathizer and Rutgers professor Mark Bray, author of “Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook,” railed against President Donald Trump in The Washington Post for identifying Antifa as a source of the current unrest.
“Trump’s reckless accusations lack evidence … But they also intentionally misrepresent the anti-fascist movement in the interest of delegitimizing militant protest and deflecting attention away from the white supremacy and police brutality that the protests oppose.”
Conservative activist and scholar Tina Trent, a former candidate for the Georgia General Assembly, told The Epoch Times that although the killing of Floyd was disturbing, these academics are operating on false assumptions about the racial makeup of crimes.
“Black males make up almost 50 percent of cop killers,” she said in an interview.
“Cops have a lot more to fear from blacks than blacks have to fear from cops. The vast majority of black people murdered are murdered by other blacks. Professors who carry on about cop-on-black murders are not only intellectually dishonest but they’re speaking for a narrative that results in increased deaths for the very cohort that they pretend to protect.”
These academics don’t care about what happens to communities, Trent said. “None of this affects them personally.”

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DOJ Has Evidence That Antifa, Other Similar Groups Have ‘Instigated’ Violent Activity: Barr

The Justice Department (DOJ) has evidence that the far-left extremist organization Antifa and other similar groups have been been behind the recent riots in order fuel their own “violent agenda,” according to Attorney General William Barr.
Barr told reporters at a June 4 presser that there are “three different sets of actors” involved, including peaceful demonstrators, opportunistic looters, and extremist agitators. Foreign actors have also played a role in the violence, he added.
“We have evidence that Antifa and other similar extremist groups, as well as actors of a variety of different political persuasions, have been involved in instigating and participating in the violent activity,” he said. “We are also seeing foreign actors playing all sides to exacerbate the violence.”
While most have peacefully demonstrated, Barr said some have “have hijacked protests to engage in lawlessness, violent rioting, arson, looting of businesses, and public property assaults on law enforcement officers and innocent people, and even the murder of a federal agent.”
“There are extremist agitators who are hijacking the protests to pursue their own separate and violent agenda,” he said.
So far the government has made 51 arrests for federal crimes in connection with the rioting. On May 31, President Donald Trump announced that his administration would be designating Antifa as a terrorist organization.
The FBI has also directed 200 joint terrorism task forces from across the country to help law enforcement with apprehending and charging violent agitators.
What started as peaceful protests over the death of George Floyd, who said multiple times he couldn’t breathe and became non-responsive while a police officer knelt on his neck, has been exploited and turned into violent chaos.
At the same presser, FBI director Christopher Wray said “anarchists like Antifa and other agitators” are “exploiting the situation to pursue violent, extremist agendas.”
“These individuals have set out to sow discord and upheaval rather than join in the righteous pursuit of equality and justice,” Wray said.
The violence has sprung up in many states. As of June 3, the U.S. Marshals Service has reported damage and vandalism to “21 federal courthouse located in 15 different states and the District of Colombia,” according to U.S. Marshals Service Director Donald W. Washington.
“There has been damage and vandalism to many other federal properties,” he added.
While it is their “absolute duty” to protect people exercising constitutional rights, this does not apply to “rioters, arsonists, thieves, looters, and their protagonists [who] are criminals,” said Washington.
During a question and answer segment, Barr also pointed out the “witches brew that we have of extremists, individuals, and groups that are involved.” He noted the disinformation on this front in that there have been members “posing as different groups.”
“The intelligence being collected by our U.S. attorneys office, particularly integrated by the FBI from multiple different sources is building up,” he said. “There are some specific cases against individuals, some Antifa-related.”
“There are some groups that don’t have a particular ideology other than anarchy,” Barr said. “There’s some groups that want to bring about a civil war—the boogaloo group, that has been on the margin on this as well, trying to exacerbate the violence.”
Police departments in several states in recent days have warned of materials being purposely planted in certain locations so as to fuel rioting.
The Kansas City police department in Missouri stated on Twitter that it “learned of & discovered stashes of bricks and rocks” in some areas “to be used during a riot,” and asked people to report such cases to authorities to be removed.
Days later, the Minneapolis Police department warned of “incendiary materials and accelerants” such as water bottles filled with gasoline found hidden in bushes and neighborhoods.
The FBI has “quite a number of ongoing investigations” against “violent anarchists extremists” according to Wray, including what he described as “those motivated by an Antifa, or Antifa-like ideology.”
“We categorize and treat those as domestic terrorism investigations and are actively pursuing them through our joint terrorism task-forces,” he said. “What tactics they use varies wifely sometimes from city to city, sometimes even from night to night.”
Follow Bowen on Twitter: @BowenXiao_

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Facebook Placing Labels on Chinese, Russian State Media Amid Concerns Over Foreign Influence

Facebook said June 4 it would start labeling state-controlled media outlets on its platform amid intensifying concern over foreign actors using social media to shift public opinion to advance their own agendas.
The company said it would start labeling Facebook pages of state-run outlets, and from next week would start labeling posts from such outlets for users in the United States. The move would apply to Chinese state-run media such as Xinhua News, People’s Daily, and China Global Television Network (CGTN), and Russian state-owned outlets including Russia Today, and Sputnik.
Later this summer, it will also start blocking these outlets from buying ads in the United States “to provide an extra layer of protection” against foreign influence ahead of the upcoming presidential elections, Facebook said, without detailing exactly when this will occur.
On its global platform, Facebook will also start labeling ads from state-controlled outlets later this summer.
“We’re providing greater transparency into these publishers because they combine the influence of a media organization with the strategic backing of a state,” Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, said in a statement.
The move comes after increasing scrutiny on Beijing’s efforts to use Western social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to spread propaganda and disinformation during the pandemic, and most recently on the race-related unrest across America. Observers say the regime is taking advantage of the crisis and deliberately stoking racial tensions to undermine the United States and the model of democratic governance that it represents.
Earlier in the year, ads from Chinese state media including Global Times, Xinhua, China Central Television (CCTV), and CGTN, attacking President Donald Trump’s handling of the outbreak drew millions of views. These outlets also used hashtags “#Trumpandemic” and “#TrumpVirus” in its Facebook and Twitter posts.
Last August, Twitter and Facebook uncovered vast Chinese state-backed influence campaigns on their platforms aimed at undermining the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. YouTube also identified a similar coordinated influence operation around the Hong Kong protests.
In response, Twitter banned state-controlled media from advertising on the platform, YouTube expanded labeling of state-backed media outlets in the region.
Follow Cathy on Twitter: @CathyHe_ET

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Chicago Mayor Pleads With Walmart, Other Retailers to Not Abandon City After Unrest

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said that she hopes Walmart and other retailers won’t abandon Chicago after nights of looting and vandalism during protests triggered by the death of George Floyd.
Lightfoot told reporters that she was on a conference call with major retailers including Walmart, which had their stores looted or damaged by unrest in Chicago, pleading with them not to abandon the city.
“I think in the case of Walmart, what they were focused on was assessing the damage. They are doing an effort to donate fresh produce, to the extent of what’s left so it doesn’t perish, and other perishables, and they are talking their time, as I would expect,” she said.
Some Walmart officials said they would rebuild stores that were damaged by looters but later said that only some stores would be opened.
“My hope is that they will come back,” Lightfoot said. “But I got a resounding, ‘Mayor, this is our city, this is our home,’ from a lot of other retailers and I would hope that Walmart would follow suit.”
In a statement to Crain’s Chicago Business, the Arkansas-based retail giant said it wouldn’t commit to reopening all stores in Chicago.
“We’re working to assess the situation with each location and are planning to reopen stores as soon as possible, recognizing the important role we play in so many impacted communities in providing for everyday needs,” a Walmart representative said in a statement.

A Walmart that was looted by rioters in Bronzeville, Chicago, Ill., on June 1, 2020. (Cara Ding/The Epoch Times)
A local official, Ald. Howard Brookins Jr., said he’s concerned that a Walmart on 83rd Street and Stewart Ave. won’t reopen due to the damages incurred during looting.
“It’s a much-needed resource and invaluable store for our community,” he said. He noted that the Walmart managers there already complained about losing money at the location.
Brookins told the Chicago Sun-Times earlier this week that during riots and looting, 95 percent of stores that sell merchandise in his ward were hit.
“I get the protest. I get the anger. I don’t get the looting and tearing up your own community. I don’t condone it. I don’t think it’s right,” he said.
Floyd’s death in May has become the latest flashpoint for rage, propelling the issue to the top of the political agenda five months before the U.S. presidential election on Nov. 3.
Derek Chauvin, 44, was fired from the Minneapolis police force and charged with second-degree murder after being filmed in a widely circulated video kneeling on Floyd’s neck.
Reuters contributed to this report.

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Warships mass in the Baltic Sea for a coronavirus-conscious battle drill

COLOGNE, Germany – Navies from 19 NATO members and partners are slated to kick off the 2020 iteration of the “Baltic Operations” exercise on Friday, which this year excludes any amphibious drills to avoid the risk of spreading the coronavirus between ships and land.

Hosted by the U.S. Navy’s 6th Fleet, the ten-day exercise features live training events related to air defense, anti-submarine warfare, maritime interdiction and mine countermeasure operations, the German navy wrote in a statement.

Officials at Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO will command the proceedings from their new headquarters roughly 2,000 miles away, in Lisbon, Portugal.

The drill’s 3,000 participants hail from the countries bordering the Baltic Sea, Scandinavia, the Mediterranean NATO nations, Canada, the U.K, and the Netherlands. Almost 30 ships and aircraft each are expected to be in use.

“BALTOPS provides the opportunity for NATO and partner nations to operate together, sharing best practices to improve real-world operations,” Vice Adm. Lisa Franchetti, who commands Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO and U.S. 6th Fleet, was quoted as saying in a statement. “Although we’ll conduct this year’s event entirely at sea, BALTOPS 2020 will demonstrate our continuous commitment to regional security and reinforce the inherent flexibility of our combined naval force to operate together under any circumstances.”

Restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic are forcing sailors to remain afloat and do their best to implement distancing rules in tight quarters. The captain of Germany’s Lübeck frigate, for example, was quoted as saying his crew would attempt to stay 1.5 m apart from one another wherever possible.

The global pandemic has taken a toll on the size and scope of the exercise, but the fact that it is still taking place at all is an attempt to project strength even now, according to Julian Pawlak and Sebastian Bruns, two naval analysts at the University of Kiel. That is especially the case for Germany, which is eager to “send a message” by bringing its equipment, said Pawlak.

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As for the strategic context, “The idea is to demonstrate that the Baltic Sea isn’t anyone’s front yard, but that freedom-of-navigation principles apply just the same here,” said Bruns.

What is unlikely to change is complaining by Baltic Sea neighbor Russia about the Western assembly of warship so close to its borders. “But that’s part of it,” Pawlak said, adding that Russian vessels usually take every opportunity to observe the drill from a distance.

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US Air Force relaunches effort to replace MQ-9 Reaper drone

WASHINGTON — It has been eight years since the U.S. Air Force canceled its effort to field a successor to the MQ-9 Reaper, but it appears the service might take another swing at developing a new combat drone.

On June 3, the Air Force issued a request for information on a next-generation unmanned aircraft with strike, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, with the intent to accept delivery of the first systems in 2030 and field them in 2031.

The solicitation was first reported on by Aviation Week.

“With the MQ-9 platform planning for end of service life, a need to identify a solution that continues to provide for this demand is imperative,” the RFI stated. “The purpose of this RFI is to research potential solutions for the Next Generation UAS ISR/Strike platform, the Next Generation Medium Altitude UAS and potential follow-on program to the MQ-9 weapon system.”

The Air Force is looking to collect market research on existing technologies as well as systems that are currently under development, with a focus on drones that incorporate advanced technologies such as autonomy, artificial intelligence, machine learning, digital engineering and open-mission systems.

In addition, the service is open to attritable technologies — meaning systems that are not cheap enough to be considered expendable, but some losses are still expected in combat.

“The Air Force is also interested in researching alternative ways to support future lower-end, lower-cost ISR missions which may include initiatives to modernize, augment, and/or replace existing systems,” the RFI stated. “This RFI inquires about unique and innovative practices that can deliver relevant capability efficiently, timely and at a reduced life-cycle cost.”

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Although the Air Force has not solidified an acquisition strategy, it intends to hold multiple competitions for the air vehicle itself, as well as its ground control systems and the suite of sensors and data exploitation technology it will use to collect and dissect information. Each technology area will be built to open-architecture standards.

Responses to the RFI are due July 20.

This latest effort would mark the second time the Air Force has tried to replace the MQ-9 Reaper, currently being manufactured by General Atomics. In its first attempt, known as MQ-X, the service sought to procure a more survivable combat drone that could operate in contested spaces where a Reaper cannot fly. The program was canceled in 2012.

Over the years, the Air Force remained mostly quiet about what an MQ-9 replacement could look like.

But in 2019, Kenneth Bray, acting associate deputy chief of staff for ISR, said the service has done a fair amount of behind-the-scenes thinking on the topic over the past three to four years. But instead of starting with requirements for the aircraft itself, Bray said the service focused on the data the system would collect and how to optimize the drone’s design to to gather and use that information.

“We’re starting to think not from the sensor or from the platform, we’re starting to think from the data and decide: Is it even collecting the right size data, or do I need to have different sensors on those platforms?” he told Defense News. “Are those platforms even relevant anymore, or do I need a different platform because what I need is this type of data, and only this type of platform can get me that type of data? That is how we’re going to change our thinking.”

In March, Will Roper, the Air Force’s top acquisition official, said the service is working on a study that will inform the fiscal 2022 budget and lay out a path for replacing the MQ-9 Reaper.

Finding a single replacement to fill the MQ-9′s strike and surveillance mission is unlikely, Roper said, as the service wants to be able to operate in all environments without solely relying on exquisite, pricey systems. The service may need a family of systems that includes high-end, military-specific drones as well as cheaper UAVs that could be sourced from the commercial unmanned systems market, he said.

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CDC Director Warns Nationwide Protests Could Be Virus ‘Seeding Event’

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield said Thursday that he’s “very concerned” the agency’s public health message on the CCP virus isn’t being adhered to by the public as cases rise across the country. Redfield told the House Appropriations Committee that he is seeing “a lot of people” not wearing masks […]

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US Court Blocks Sales of Bayer Weed Killer

Bayer AG has been blocked from selling an agricultural weed killer in the United States, the latest setback for a business already fighting an expensive legal battle over another product. A three-judge panel ruled the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) substantially understated the risks related to the use of dicamba, a chemical found in herbicides […]

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Former Obama-era Official Secures Bail for Lawyer Accused of Tossing Molotov Cocktail at Police Car: Reports

A former Obama administration official has secured bail for a lawyer accused of firebombing a police cruiser during George Floyd unrest in New York City, according to a court transcript and multiple reports.
According to the Washington Free Beacon and Fox News, Washington-based lawyer Salmah Rizvi, who worked in both the State and Defense departments under former President Barack Obama, helped bail out fellow attorney Urooj Rahman, who prosecutors accuse of “tossing a Molotov Cocktail at an unoccupied NYPD vehicle.”
A court transcript (pdf) from Rahman’s Monday arraignment indicates that Rizvi agreed to sign a bond, telling the judge: “Urooj Rahman is my best friend and I am an associate at the law firm Ropes & Gray in Washington, D.C. I earn $255,000 a year.”
The judge told the accused that if Rizvi signs the bond “and you don’t do everything you’re supposed to do and you don’t appear when you’re supposed to, they will be jointly and severally liable to the United States Government for a quarter of a million dollars.”
He added that if Rahman fails to show up for her hearing, she could be charged with jumping bail, which carries a mandatory prison sentence.

Police prepare to make dozens of arrests amid unrest in Manhattan, New York City, N.Y., on June 3, 2020. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Prosecutors with the Eastern District of New York said in a release on Sunday that an NYPD surveillance camera caught Rahman tossing a Molotov Cocktail at a parked police car in Brooklyn, New York, before escaping in a minivan.
Police set off in pursuit and arrested Rahman, along with Colinford Mattis, also an attorney, who drove the escape vehicle. Inside the minivan, police found several precursor items used to build Molotov Cocktails, including a lighter, a bottle filled with toilet paper, and a liquid suspected to be gasoline.
Rahman and Mattis, both highly educated attorneys, have both been charged with causing damage by fire and explosives to a police vehicle, and could each face up to 20 years behind bars.
A detention memo cited by the New York Post mentioned the prestigious educational backgrounds of both defendants, saying, “They knew their acts endangered the NYPD officers and protesters on the street, as well as their own futures, and the defendants were undeterred.”

Rioters set a dumpster on fire in New York City, N.Y., on May 31, 2020. (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
“These defendants are charged with attacking the New York City Police Department while its Police Officers are risking their lives to protect the Constitutional rights of protesters and the safety of us all,” stated U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue. “No rational human being can ever believe that hurling firebombs at Police Officers and vehicles is justified.”
“The consequences for conducting this alleged attack, and any similar activity planned for the future, will be severe,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney.
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French-Italian naval joint venture invests in future technologies

ROME – Italy and France are to fund half the cost of new cutting-edge technology projects launched by Naviris, the joint venture between the countries’ leading shipyards.

The money will be used for development work on computer-aided engineering, vessel lifecycle simulation, energy efficiency, fuel cells for surface vessels, logistics and new technologies for helping sail in rough weather.

Naviris is a 50-50 joint venture launched in 2019 by Italy’s Fincantieri and France’s Naval Group to develop common vessels including a new European corvette which has attracted interest from Spain after Greece signed up.

The deal on funding for new research, announced on Thursday, will see the injection of state cash overseen by OCCAR, the European procurement organization which is used by nations to manage multinational programs.

“Through this deal, managed by OCCAR, Naviris will provide half the funding for the research, while the defense ministries of Italy and France will provide the other half,” said a Fincantieri source.

“Naviris will have the intellectual property of the results, which can be exploited by Italy and France for their navies,” he added. No value was given for the three-and-a-half-year contract.

In a statement, Naviris said that three Naval Group sites will be involved in the projects – Nantes-Indret, Ollioules and Lorient, as well as its subsidiary SIREHNA. Fincantieri facilities at Genova and Trieste will work on the project, along with its subsidiaries Cetena and Seastema.

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OCCAR said that the contract would be followed by a successive deal involving the European organization in upgrade work undertaken by Naviris on Horizon frigates operated by France and Italy.

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Dozens of Louisville Officers Walk out on Mayor Amid Protests

Dozens of officers in Louisville, Kentucky, appeared to walk out on the mayor on Wednesday as he tried to address them, according to video footage of the incident.
Fraternal Order of Police President Ryan Nichols, who was not in attendance, confirmed the walkout. He said that police are frustrated with Mayor Greg Fischer, a Democrat, while they have been responding to protests, riots, and looting since last week.
“They feel completely unsupported and disrespected by this administration,” Nichols said, according to the Courier-Journal, which obtained the video of the walkout. “They feel whatever he was going to say would have been nothing more than lip service, and he does not care about them at all.”
The video footage showed Fischer trying to address the police department as officers and detectives walked out of the room.
Nichols said Fischer’s response has been “directed and focused against police.”

Police in riot gear stand in formation during protests in Louisville, Ky., on May 29, 2020. (Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

General view of a CVS store that was heavily damaged by rioters during a protest the night before in Louisville, Ky., on May 30, 2020. (Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
The protests in Louisville are part of a broader, nationwide demonstration following the death of George Floyd, a man who died in police custody last week. Former officer Derek Chauvin was charged with second-degree murder.
There have been tensions between the mayor’s office and the police department after an unarmed black woman was shot and killed outside her apartment on March 13.

Demonstrators gather to protest the killing of Breonna Taylor, a black woman fatally shot by police in her home in March, in downtown Louisville, Ky., on May 28, 2020. (@mckinley_moore via AP)
In addressing the walkout, Fischer told The Hill in a statement that officers are “putting in long hours” and “suffering insults and assaults from people they are working to protect.”
“They are frustrated, and some of them expressed that frustration today,” Fischer said. “I absolutely respect that. That doesn’t change my appreciation of the work they are doing, as I’ve expressed time and again.”
He added that “I hope our residents will embrace our police officers as guardians—I know that’s how the vast, vast majority view their role.”
Memorials will also be held on Saturday in Hoke County, North Carolina, where Floyd’s sister lives, as well as in Houston on Monday, near where Floyd lived, reports said. And a funeral for Floyd is planned for Tuesday with private services at an undisclosed location.

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Journalists Demand Police to Stop Attacks Against Press at George Floyd Protests

Journalists are urging state and law enforcement leaders to stop attacks on the press following a series of reports that journalists have been shot at, pepper-sprayed, manhandled, and arrested while covering the George Floyd protests.
Reporter groups and individual journalists are taking action to demand police officers to stop targeting members of the press, who are credentialed and identifiable, and to hold officers accountable for any alleged misconduct.
One reporter, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, has taken his fight to a federal court by filing a class-action lawsuit alleging that the “extraordinary escalation of unlawful force deliberately targeting reporters” by police officers violates the U.S. Constitution.
“It violates the sacrosanct right to freedom of speech and freedom of the press that form the linchpin of a free society. It constitutes a pattern of unreasonable force and unlawful seizures under the Fourth Amendment. And it deprives liberty without a modicum of due process protected by the Fourteenth Amendment,” the lawsuit states.
In the last several days, dozens of journalists reported that they were assaulted, shot-at by rubber bullets, have seen their equipment damaged, and been pepper-sprayed even after they have identified themselves as members of the press to the officers.
In one instance, a reporter from VICE news who was covering the protests in Minneapolis, Minnesota, said he was forced onto the ground and pepper-sprayed in the face even though he repeatedly said “press.” In addition, his hands and press ID were held up.
Similarly, last Friday, a CNN reporter, a producer, and camera crew were arrested live on air while covering the protest in Minnesota.
According to the US Press Freedom Tracker, a non-profit project, they have received over 279 complaints of press freedom incidents between May 26 and June 3. Among the incidents, there are over 45 arrests and 180 assaults where 149 reports have been made against police officers, including 42 physical assaults by police, 40 assaults using tear gas, and 69 reports of the use of rubber bullets or projectiles.
The Australian government on Tuesday called for an investigation into the apparent assault of an Australian news crew who were covering the protests near the White House on Monday night. The U.S. Park Police said it has placed two officers on administrative leave and that the attack was being investigated.
In reaction to the CNN crew arrests, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz apologized to the network, saying that there was “absolutely no reason that something like this should happen.”
“We have got to ensure that there is a safe spot for journalism to tell this story,” Walz said during a news conference.
A reporters group, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, has sent a letter to officials in Minnesota on Tuesday to call on Minnesota officials and law enforcement to take “concrete steps to end the series of police arrests and attacks” on reporters. The letter was co-signed by 115 media and press freedom organizations.
“Law enforcement officers do not have legal immunity when they violate clearly established rights under the First Amendment,” the committee wrote in its letter (pdf). “While we understand the challenges that officers face in policing during times of civil protest—challenges that journalists face as well in covering these incidents—the bedrock American ideal of a free press demands that we protect First Amendments rights even more zealously in moments of crisis.”

A police officer shouts at Associated Press videojournalist Robert Bumsted, in New York City on June 2, 2020. (Wong Maye-E/AP Photo)
The committee also urged the officials to implement a number of protocols aimed at protecting reporters and ensuring the police officers do not indiscriminately target journalists who are covering the protests.
Meanwhile, members of law enforcement have also reported many cases of assaults and attacks during the widespread protests. A federal law enforcement officer identified as Patrick Underwood was killed at a courthouse in Oakland, California, while a protest occurred outside the building.
Meanwhile, a Las Vegas police officer is in a critical condition after being shot in the head on Monday during a protest. A 20-year-old suspect was taken into custody and charged with attempted murder.
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China Eases Flight Curbs After US Targets Its Carriers

BEIJING—China will ease CCP virus restrictions to allow more foreign carriers to fly to the mainland, shortly after Washington vowed to bar Chinese airlines from flying to the United States due to Beijing’s curbs on U.S. airlines.
Qualifying foreign carriers, about 95 of them currently barred from operating flights to China, will be allowed once-a-week flights into a city of their choosing starting on June 8, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said on Thursday.
But considering some countries are still banning international flights, it estimated the number of international flights would increase by 50 to 150 per week while the average of passengers arriving per day would rise to 4,700, up from around 3,000 now.
The CAAC said all airlines will be allowed to increase the number of international flights involving China to two per week if no passengers on their flights test positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, for three consecutive weeks.

An airline worker wearing a protective mask checks the body temperature of passengers in the boarding area at the Tianhe Airport in Wuhan, in Chinas central Hubei province on May 29, 2020. (Hector Retamal /AFP via Getty Images)
If five or more passengers on one flight test positive for COVID-19 upon arrival, the CAAC will bar the airline from services for a week. Airlines would be suspended for four weeks if 10 passengers or more test positive.
The CAAC has slashed international flights since late March to allay concerns over rising CCP virus infections brought by arriving passengers. Mainland carriers are limited to one flight a week on one route to any country and foreign airlines are allowed to operate just one flight a week to a city in China.

A flight attendant wearing a protective mask checks the body temperature of the passengers next to the door of the plane at the Tianhe Airport in Wuhan, in Chinas central Hubei province on May 29, 2020. (Hector Retamal /AFP via Getty Images)
Carriers could also fly no more than the number of flights in a weekly schedule approved by the CAAC on March 12. U.S. passenger airlines already stopped all flights to China at that time, meaning they were unable to resume flights to China.
On Wednesday, the U.S. government said it would bar Chinese passenger carriers starting from June 16, pressuring Beijing to let U.S. airlines to resume flights.
The U.S. Department of Transportation could not be immediately reached for comment, though it has said it will reconsider the decision against Chinese airlines if the CAAC adjusts its policies affecting U.S. airlines.
Zhao Lijian, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, said at a daily briefing on Thursday the CAAC is lodging a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation for the ruling against Chinese air carriers. He said the CAAC is in close cooperation with its U.S. counterpart about passenger flights.
“We hope the U.S. side will not create obstacles for the resolution of this issue,” Zhao said.
China suspended the entry of most foreigners in late March, meaning only Chinese nationals can enter on commercial passenger flights.
By Stella Qiu and Se Young Lee
Epoch Times staff contributed to this report. 

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Antifa Accused of Coordinating Looting of Target Store in Austin: Officials

The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) announced it is investigating links between the far-left group Antifa and violence and looting at protests that erupted during protests sparked by the death of George Floyd.
The agency’s director, Steven McGraw, made the announcement Tuesday while noting the May 31 raid on a Target in Austin, the state capital. He said Antifa coordinated the looting over the Internet.
“The protest and looting of Target in Austin that was done and organized by an Antifa web page and of course, the surveillance that was provided over the Internet identifying where law enforcement resources were staged, was done over Antifa accounts,” McGraw said, according to Reform Austin.
He said the agency is working with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force to track down individuals.
“We are talking about violent extremists. There’s anarchists. There’s Antifa, but there are also criminals that are using this as an opportunity to exploit and to loot and hurt others. That’s happened,” he said. “We have a long memory. We have recorded evidence, and we will continue to investigate each and every event to identify those individuals who were involved in criminal conduct and make the appropriate arrests based on probable cause and getting prosecution from either the district attorney or U.S. Attorney’s Office,” McGraw added.
DPS agents were also embedded in the protests over George Floyd’s death to help identify violent elements in the crowds. Some suspects are expected to be taken into custody.

Looters rob a Target store as protesters face off against police in Oakland, Calif., on May 30, 2020. (Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images)
“I don’t mind advertising this. We do have special agents embedded trying to identify criminals that are leveraging these or using these as an opportunity exploiting these demonstrations, identifying them and we’ve already identified some of them and we will be arresting them, but not at this particular moment,” McGraw said.
President Donald Trump said Sunday that the U.S. government will designate Antifa as a terrorist organization, but didn’t elaborate.
All four officers present in the death of Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, were criminally charged in the case. The state’s attorney general on Wednesday charged Derek Chauvin with second-degree murder and Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
The county attorney had charged Chauvin on Friday with third-degree murder and manslaughter. The state’s attorney general, Keith Ellison, said Wednesday that he and the prosecutor now believe the evidence warrants the stronger charge.
Graphic videos show Chauvin, who is white, kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes as the unarmed man gasped for breath and groaned, “Please, I can’t breathe.”
Reuters contributed to this report.

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Chinese Dissident Xu Zhiyong to Be Honored by PEN America

NEW YORK—Xu Zhiyong, a prominent Chinese activist and legal scholar detained by the Chinese communist regime since earlier this year, is being honored by PEN America.
The literary and human rights organization announced on June 4 that Xu is this year’s winner of the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award, which recognizes those imprisoned for free expression and previously has been given to dissidents everywhere from Cuba to Turkey. Xu’s award comes on the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, when Chinese soldiers shot and killed thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators, according to most estimates. The true death count is still not known due to the regime’s suppression of information on the subject.
The 47-year-old Xu has strongly criticized Chinese leader Xi Jinping for his handling of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus outbreak. Xu had been in hiding since last December, but continued to attack Xi on social media, accusing him of covering up information about the CCP virus and calling him unfit for his job.

Police officer walks past placards of detained rights activists taped on the fence of the Chinese liaison office, in protest against Beijings detention of prominent anti-corruption activist Xu Zhiyong, in Hong Kong, China, on Feb. 19, 2020.  (Isaac Lawrence/AFP via Getty Images)
“You didn’t authorise the truth to be released, and the outbreak turned into a national disaster,” Xu wrote in February, shortly before he was detained. “I don’t think you’re an evil man, you’re just not wise.”
According to friends, Xu faces charges for “inciting subversion of state power.”
In a recent interview with The Associated Press, PEN CEO Suzanne Nossel cited a “confluence” of factors in giving the award to Xu, from highlighting China’s record of human rights violations as the country’s influence grows worldwide to the dangers of official secrecy on public health.
“The suppression of information and the punishment of those who tried to blow the whistle has unquestionably contributed to the uncontrollable spread of the coronavirus,” she said. “We really see the catastrophic consequences of muzzling those who try to tell the truth.”
Xu has a long history of taking on the regime and was jailed in 2014 for “gathering a crowd to disturb public order,” a charge stemming from his leadership of the reformist New Citizens Movement. In 2009, he was arrested on charges of tax evasion but released a month later.
PEN will highlight Xu’s life and work at its annual gala, scheduled for Dec. 8 in Manhattan after being postponed from May because of the CCP virus. Other honorees will include the musician and author Patti Smith and Hearst executive president Frank A. Bennack Jr.
By Hillel  Italie
Epoch Times staff contributed to this report.

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Dozens Arrested and $46,000 of Property Recovered After ‘Unprecedented’ Looting at Arizona Mall

Police in Scottsdale, Arizona, said they have arrested dozens of people and recovered $46,000 of property in connection with looting and rioting at Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall and nearby businesses on Saturday.
The Scottsdale Police Department said in a statement Wednesday that they had made eight additional arrests, bringing the total to twenty, and recovered property, in connection with an incident at the mall that authorities earlier called “unprecedented.”
“On Saturday, May 30th, the City of Scottsdale experienced an unprecedented event. Hundreds of people came to Scottsdale, specifically, the Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall, under the guise of protesting police violence,” Scottsdale police said in a statement cited by ABC15 Arizona. “While some may have indeed come to join what they believed would be a peaceful protest, what occurred was neither peaceful, nor a protest. It was a riot that saw several dozens of individuals collectively damaging property at and near the mall, breaking into businesses and looting the interiors.”
Footage shared on social media showed looters jumping into and out of the mall through broken windows and the sound of breaking glass could be heard.
Millions of dollars of damage was reported after multiple stores were broken into and vandalized on the night of May 30, local news KTAR reported, with names of businesses that were targeted including Neiman Marcus, Urban Outfitters, and the Apple Store.
Other footage showed shattered glass at the Apple Store and debris strewn on the ground.
Police said that as a result of the criminal activity, the mall and area around it had to be closed.

As a result of last night’s criminal activity, Scottsdale’s Fashion Square Mall, as well as Camelback Rd from Goldwater Bl to Scottsdale Rd is CLOSED today. This area is to be avoided. Updates on last night’s activity will be provided later today. pic.twitter.com/GDclrlM0oC
— ScottsdalePD (@ScottsdalePD) May 31, 2020

Police were caught off guard, according to KTAR, when around 500 people showed up at a demonstration at the shopping center, while authorities expected only between 50 and 100.
“We built our response based on the intel that we had,” Scottsdale Police Department Chief Alan Rodbell told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Gaydos and Chad Show. He denied that the department sat idly by and let the looting happen.
“Some property damage occurred before we could respond, but we never gave up property and said ‘OK, have your way with this,’” he told the outlet.
After reports of damage to businesses, Scottsdale police declared the demonstration an “unlawful assembly” and ordered people to disperse at risk of arrest.

A view inside a Target store through a broken window in Minneapolis, Minn., on May 27, 2020. (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
Other law enforcement agencies responded to the scene to assist, dispersing the crowd at around 5 a.m., KTAR reported.
Rodbell said officers “didn’t observe any behavior that was worthy of shooting people,” but Scottsdale Assistant Police Chief Scott Popp told a press conference Sunday that police used “chemical munitions” to control the crowd.
Scottsdale police on Wednesday said they expect to make more arrests in connection with the looting and property destruction.
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Senator Requests DOJ Findings of FBI’s Handling of Larry Nassar Case

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) is pressing the Department of Justice to release their findings of how the FBI handled the Larry Nassar Case when they were first tipped off about the misconduct through USA Gymnastics (USAG).
The Texas Senator sent a letter to Inspector General Michael Horowitz on Tuesday to get a report about the probe, pointing to the fact that it had been two years since the FBI took up the investigation.
“According to news reports, at least 40 professional athletes were abused by Nassar in the time between the USA Gymnastics made its report to the FBI and when he was publicly named as a perpetrator. An investigation into the FBI’s delays was first reported in September 2018, but nearly two years later, the report has yet to be released,” the letter states.
The Republican lawmaker said the victims have a legal right to this information, as stated under The Crime Victims’ Rights laws.
“All victims deserve dignity and to have crimes committed against them properly and fairly investigated. I am deeply concerned about evidence of the FBI’s lack of urgency, even as they were uncovering clear information that a predator continued to harm the athletes in his care,” Cornyn continued.
Under the pretense of providing medical treatment, former USAG national team doctor Larry Nassar was named in hundreds of lawsuits filed by athletes who said that Nassar sexually abused them. Since the scandal was first reported by The Indianapolis Star in September 2016, hundreds of young women, including former USAG national team members came forward to give testimony about the abuse they suffered.
Nassar, was accused of sexual abuse by more than 350 women. He ran a clinic and gymnastics club at Michigan State University (MSU) where he was a faculty member. The scandal had earlier led to resignations of top officials at MSU, including the school’s former president. The university agreed in May, 2019, to pay $425 million to 332 of Nassar’s victims and to set aside another $75 million for any future plaintiffs.
Nassar was sentenced in two different trials to 300 years in prison for having abused young female gymnasts. Prosecutors said he abused more than 265 people, many through his practice at MSU.
MSU had faced public criticisms over how they handled the Nassar case. While athletes had complained about Nassar since the 1990s, the school didn’t open an investigation until 2014.
The Office for Civil Rights investigation found MSU failed to “adequately respond” to the sexual misconduct reports against Nassar and his former boss, William Strampel. The office said the school also “failed to take appropriate interim measures to protect its students while complaints against Nassar and Strampel were pending.”
“What they suffered is unbearable. It can never happen again. Victims’ allegations must be investigated quickly, their voices must be listened to. The release of this report is the first necessary step in determining how to move forward. I again reiterate the need for its speedy release,” concluded the Senator.
Reuters contributed to this report.

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Lead Dems back bill to ban live nuclear tests

WASHINGTON ― The Senate’s top Democrat, Sen. Chuck Schumer, is co-sponsoring legislation meant to prevent the Trump administration from restarting explosive nuclear weapons testing.

The Preserving Leadership Against Nuclear Explosives Testing, or PLANET Act, announced Thursday, would bar any funds from being used for such tests. It follows a Washington Post report of high-level discussions around the possibility of doing a “rapid test”― potentially America’s first live nuclear test since 1992.

The bill is led by Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and a longtime arms control advocate on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. While a key administration official has said tests could begin within months if ordered by the president for technical or geopolitical reasons, critics say it could incentivize Russia and China to openly test with little valuable data to show for U.S. tests.

The bill had no backing from Republicans, but its 14 Democratic co-sponsors include Schumer, who is Senate Minority Leader, and several other members who could be instrumental in attaching it to upcoming appropriations legislation or the National Defense Authorization Act: Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Vice Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and three members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

For decades, the United States has relied on simulations and non-explosive testing to assess the health and capabilities of the nuclear arsenal, and in the near term, the data gathered by such a test would be minimal, Drew Walter, performing the duties of deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear matters, said at an event last month.

Critics argue it’s not worth the risks to public health or geopolitically.

“Congress must send the President the same message the directors of our national laboratories have sent the President: we know more about the U.S. nuclear stockpile in the absence of testing than we knew in the half-century of testing,” Markey said in a statement.

“That is why, before it is too late, Congress must use its power of the purse to deny President Trump from sparking a global return to testing the most powerful weapon ever created by man. North Korea is an international pariah for its defiance of international norms – largely through its illicit nuclear weapons tests. We must not join them.”

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According to a bill summary, it would also allow for stockpile stewardship activities, such as certifying the safety, security and reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile, so long as those activities are consistent with the “zero-yield” scope of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

There is no legal block on live testing, as America has not formally ratified the CNTBT, which fell just short in the Senate in 1999. Like the U.S., China has signed onto the CTBT but not ratified it, and while Russia has, the U.S. has publicly questioned whether Moscow is fulfilling its promise not to do testing. (Public data has not substantiated those claims.)

Aaron Mehta contributed to this report.

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British Army launches its first cyberwar regiment

LONDON – Britain’s first dedicated cyber regiment has been officially established as part of the Army’s drive to modernize its response to the growing digital threat posed by potential adversaries.Creation of the unit, the 13th Signals Regiment, is part of an ongoing restructuring of the British Army, known as Army 2020 Refine, which includes the creation of a division conducting cyber, electronic warfare, intelligence, information operations and unconventional warfare.

The cyber regiment is built around a core of about 250 specialists and is tasked with combating threats to Army operations overseas and domestically. The new unit will also provide technical support for a hub being set up to test and implement next-generation information capabilities.
Announcing the formation of the new unit. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said the move was “a step-change in the modernization of the UK armed forces for information warfare. Cyber attacks are every bit as deadly as those faced on the physical battlefield, so we must prepare to defend ourselves from all those who would do us harm, and 13th Signal Regiment is a vital addition to that defense.”
The new unit is based at Blanford, southwest England, the home of Britain’s Royal Signals.

“13th Signals will provide the basis of the new Army Cyber Information Security Operations Centre, focusing on the protection of Defence’s cyber domain, and it will work with the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force to provide secure networks for all military communications,” the MoD said in a statement released June 4.

Creation of the security operation centre was announced by the MoD in May 2019.

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Over £22 million ($28 million) was pledged by the MoD for investment in the new centre. Operations were expected to commence in the early 2020, the MoD said at the time of the announcement last year.
The new centre will, among other things, be responsible for providing round-the-clock information and analysis, as well as having an offensive capability.
The cyber regiment is part of the British Army’s 1st (UK) Signal Brigade, which under the command of 6th (UK) Division, is responsible for conducting information maneuver and unconventional warfare in support of the Armed Forces.
The 77th brigade, a unit made up of regular troops and reservists tasked with conducting psyops and information warfare, is also part of the 6th Division lineup.

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Interim director takes over Joint Artificial Intelligence Center

As he departs, the Defense Department’s top artificial intelligence official says the foundation is set for the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center — but now it must deliver.“The foundational elements are now in place. What we have to do in the course of the next one to two years is deliver. This is about delivery first and foremost,” Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan said during a virtual Mitchell Institute event June 4. “What we have to do is show that we’re making a difference.”

The Department of Defense announced in January that Shanahan would be depart this summer. He took over the JAIC in December 2018. Before that, he oversaw Project Maven, a pathfinder effort to utilize AI and machine learning for analyzing full-motion video.

Over his year-and-a-half tenure at the JAIC, Shanahan grew the organization from just a handful of people to a fully operational team with funding and adequate staffing. As the center’s first director, Shanahan rhetorically pushed the focus on military AI away from the idea of killer robots and toward data analysis and maintenance efforts. He oversaw both the JAIC’s efforts to develop five principles of AI for the DoD and the awarding of the center’s first major contract — a five-year, $800 million task order to Booz Allen Hamilton for AI services.
“In the 18 months that I’ve been in the seat, I’d say we put all the foundational elements in place,” Shanahan said. “Taking an organization that was in June 2018 [made up of] four volunteers with no money and a couple of cubicles in different spots to work out of, to where we are today with 185 people with a $1.3 billion budget — we’ve grown so fast that we’ve exceeded our current spaces and we’re moving into a separate facility. All of that’s happened in 18 months. For the Department of Defense, that’s as fast of a growth spurt as you can possibly imagine.”
On June 1, Shanahan passed on the reins to Chief Technology Officer Nand Mulchandani, who will serve as interim director until a permanent three-star general or flag officer is confirmed.

“In the interim, I am thrilled that our chief technology officer, Nand Mulchandani — over 26 years of experience at Silicon Valley doing this for a living at software companies — will be the acting director. He transformed the organization from the moment he showed up, and he’s intently focused on [Joint All Domain Command and Control], looking at it from a different lens of a software company CEO,” Shanahan said.

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Mulchandani joined the JAIC in 2019 as the chief technology officer after a quarter century of work as a senior executive in Silicon Valley.
“Lt. General Shanahan leaves behind an incredible legacy as an AI pioneer for the Department of Defense. His 36 years of faithful service to our nation culminating in the establishment of Project Maven and the JAIC is truly inspiring,” Mulchandani said in a statement.

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George Floyd Funeral, Memorial Services’ Details Emerge

Multiple memorial services have been scheduled to honor George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis police officer—now fired and criminally charged—knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes and whose death sparked the biggest protests and civil unrest since the Vietnam War era.
Expected to stretch across six days and three states, Floyd’s memorial services were due to begin on Thursday in Minneapolis, the attorney for Floyd’s family told media. The first memorial is scheduled to take place from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at North Central University.
“As a Christian university situated in the heart of Minneapolis, we strive to be good citizens and good neighbors. Our hope is that our sanctuary will provide a space of welcome and warmth for Mr. Floyd’s loved ones and their guests during this time of remembrance and worship,” the university said in a statement, adding that the Reverend Al Sharpton, a television political commentator and civil rights activist, will give the eulogy.
“For Sharpton, this moment holds a lot of potential for change. The remaining three officers involved the killing of George Floyd were arrested yesterday,” a statement said on the website of the National Action Network, an organization founded by Sharpton.

L – A memorial outside Cup Foods, where George Floyd was killed in police custody, in Minneapolis, Minn., on May 28, 2020. (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images); R – File frame from video provided by Darnella Frazier, showing a Minneapolis officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, in Minneapolis, Minn., on May 25, 2020. (Darnella Frazier/AP)
Services will also be held Saturday in Hoke County, North Carolina, where Floyd’s sister lives, and in Houston on Monday, near where Floyd lived, media said.
A public viewing is scheduled for June 8 at The Fountain of Praise Church near Houston, from noon to 6 p.m., Click2Houston reported. A funeral service is planned for 11 a.m. the next day at the church, which will be followed by a burial.
Former Vice President Joe Biden plans to attend next week’s funeral, according to a Latorria Lemon, a spokesperson for Fort Bend Memorial Planning Center, USA TODAY reported.
Arrangements are being handled by the Fort Bend Memorial Planning Center, whose owner, Bobby Swearington, told Click2Houston that the family requested that the funeral service be grand.
“Not an easy thing to do with the magnitude and the amount of visitors that we are expecting to embark upon Houston when his services commence. It’s just so much that we are having to put together, we want to make sure that we are able to exercise social distancing so we had to find a facility,” Swearington said, according to the report.
An investigation into Floyd’s death led to second-degree manslaughter and murder charges against Derek Chauvin, the disgraced officer caught on camera kneeling on Floyd as he gasped for air and repeatedly groaned, “Please, I can’t breathe.” The video recording of the disturbing incident immediately went viral, igniting the nationwide protest and civil strife.
Three fellow officers fired from the Minneapolis police department along with Chauvin the next day were charged on Wednesday—each with aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and manslaughter.

From left, Derek Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane, and Tou Thao. (Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office/AP)
Floyd’s official cause of death, according to the full 20-page report made public on Wednesday by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office, was cardiopulmonary arrest while Floyd was being restrained by police.
The autopsy also cited “complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.”
The manner of death was listed as homicide.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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100 Million People at Risk From Severe Storms

As above-average temperatures bake the nation’s midsection, another round of severe weather is forecast on June 4, potentially impacting cities where recent protests have unfolded.
Another round of severe storms will move through Thursday, with over 100 million people potentially impacted this afternoon and evening.
It comes as “over 325,000 remain without power [Thursday] morning,” mainly in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, following storms a day earlier, CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen said. Over 220 reports of damaging winds Wednesday were made from Wyoming to New Jersey.
Severe weather chances Thursday stretch across the eastern two-thirds of the country, with the highest likelihood of damaging winds and hail spreading across South Dakota, northeastern Nebraska, southern Minnesota, and Iowa.
This area is also the most likely to see tornadoes, although the threat for wind and hail is greater. Once again, this places Minneapolis, the epicenter of protests over the death in police custody of George Floyd, on the fringe of a level 2 of 5—slight risk—for strong thunderstorms.
Afternoon storms may also fire up across the Mid-Atlantic with a slight risk—also level 2 of 5—centered over populous Washington, Philadelphia, and Baltimore.
This area is most at risk for damaging wind gusts and storms rolling through the region.
A slight risk is also forecast between Oklahoma City and Amarillo, Texas, where large hail and damaging winds will be the main threats.
The threat of severe weather diminishes Friday but returns Saturday and Sunday to the Northern Plains.
The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2020 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

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Minnesota Governor Sending National Guard Troops to North Dakota Border

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz signed an executive order to send the state’s National Guard to the Minnesota-North Dakota border, citing threats of violence in the area.
He announced that troops will be sent to Clay County, noting that local law enforcement has become aware of “threats that violent activities during demonstrations planned in North Dakota could spill into nearby Minnesota communities.”
“The Minnesota National Guard stands ready to provide protection for all Minnesotans,” Walz added in a statement. “While Minnesotans turn their attention to rebuilding our communities and reexamining racial inequities in the wake of George Floyd’s death, our administration is committed to providing protection for our neighborhoods, businesses, and families in order for those meaningful conversations to happen.”
Walz didn’t elaborate on the “credible threat” in the area, nor did officials in North Dakota. It’s not clear if it is in relation to protests and riots sparked by the death of George Floyd, who died in police custody in Minneapolis.
The National Guard general will work with local agencies to provide equipment, personnel, and facilities to respond. Meanwhile, the state’s emergency operations center was activated and “implemented the Minnesota Emergency Operations Plan. The SEOC will support this mission in addition to its current support of security operations in other communities and the State’s COVID-19 response,” according to his statement.

Police hold a perimeter at Lafayette Square near the White House as demonstrators gather to protest the killing of George Floyd in Washington, on June 2, 2020. (Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images)
The National Guard was already activated to deal with unrest following Floyd’s death. Some protests at times turned violent, with businesses being looted and buildings being burned down.
Many of the protests were largely peaceful, but they were rocked by bouts of violence, including deadly attacks on officers, rampant thefts, and arson in some places. In Minneapolis alone, more than 220 buildings were damaged or burned, with property damage topping $55 million, city officials said.
Calmer protests followed a decision by prosecutors to charge three more police officers and file a new, tougher charge against the officer at the center of the case. The most serious new charge Wednesday was an accusation of second-degree murder against former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin, who was caught on video pressing his knee to Floyd’s neck. The three other officers at the scene were charged for the first time with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Rioters Threw Molotov Cocktails at Police Cars Outside Officers’ Homes: Authorities

Three people—all seen or linked to recent protests—are in jail after trying to set police cars in Georgia on fire with Molotov cocktails, authorities said.
The two patrol vehicles were set on fire between 10 p.m. and midnight on June 2 outside the homes of Gwinnett County Police Department officers in Duluth and Lawrenceville.
A caller told 911 that a patrol car was on fire at an officer’s residence in Duluth, the department said in a statement sent to The Epoch Times. When firefighters arrived, the fire was already extinguished.
Another caller alerted 911 that someone tried setting a police car on fire at an officer’s house in Lawrenceville. Witnesses reported seeing a dark-colored passenger car flee the area.
That fire was put out quickly with a fire extinguisher.

Lakaila Mack.. (Gwinnett County Police Department)
Officers tracked down Alvin Joseph, 21, of Lawrenceville, and Lakaila Mack, 20, of Dacula. They later found a third suspect, Ebuka Chike-Morah, 21, of Duluth.
A search warrant of one of the vehicles turned up an accelerant related to the crimes, officials said.
Joseph, Mack, and Chike-Morah face a slew of charges, including first degree arson, a felony, and criminal trespass, a misdemeanor.
Police officers wrote in reports that Molotov cocktail-style devices were used to set the fires. Witnesses told police they saw three black males running from one of the fires.
All three suspects were identified as protesters by WSB-TV. Chike-Morah spoke to the broadcaster during a protest over the weekend outside Sugarloaf Mills Mall.

One of the police cars in question. (Gwinnett County Police Department)
“I’m just trying to get the message across,” he told the broadcaster. “We’re going to continue walking until we don’t feel like walking no more.”
Joseph was identified in a video from May 30 published by the Gwinnett Daily Post.
The footage shows dozens of protesters facing off with police officers, who tried to keep them from blocking roadways.
The three suspects are being held without bond at the Gwinnett County Jail.
In an unrelated incident, a police officer with the country found his patrol car windshield and driver’s side window smashed outside his residence in Lawrenceville. It appeared that someone threw a brick, causing the damage.
Anyone with information was asked to call Crime Stoppers at 404-577-TIPS (8477).
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Markets Claw Back Much of Pandemic Losses but Rally May Be Losing Steam

While major U.S. stock markets have clawed back much of their pandemic-driven losses, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq on Wednesday closing just 1.4 percent off its all-time high, Wall Street opened lower on Thursday, suggesting the equities rally may be losing some steam.
Stock futures were trading slightly down Thursday morning before the Wall Street indexes opened, suggesting a pause on bullish sentiment likely to be dampened further as investors digest jobless claims data that showed labor market improvement, but less than what analysts had forecast.
Initial jobless claims figures released Thursday by the Labor Department (pdf) showed that 1.9 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits in the week ending May 30, in line with the recent downward trend in new claims for unemployment. But continuing jobless claims unexpectedly increased to 21.5 million from 21 million, while analysts expected this number to fall to 20 million.

People who lost their jobs wait in line to file for unemployment at an Arkansas Workforce Center in Fayetteville, Ark., on April 6, 2020. (Nick Oxford/Reuters)
“The market is due for a pause,” said Christopher Grisanti, chief equity strategist at MAI Capital Management in Cleveland, Ohio.
“It’s really important to realize that U.S. equity investors have been given a great gift in the middle of what is probably the deepest recession in 80 years,” he said, referring to the strong run for Wall Street since late-March.
At closing bell Wednesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) rose 527.24 points, or 2.05 percent, to 26,269.89, the S&P500 gained 42.05 points, or 1.36 percent, to 3,122.87, and the Nasdaq Composite added 74.54 points, or 0.78 percent, to 9,682.91.
But on Thursday, after markets opened, the DJI fell 43.40 points, or 0.17 percent, to 26,226.49. The S&P500 opened lower by 11.31 points, or 0.36 percent, at 3,111.56. The Nasdaq dropped 33.26 points, or 0.34 percent, to 9,649.65 at the opening bell.
By 10:23 ET, however, the Nasdaq rebounded and was trading up 17.9 points, or 0.18 percent, at 9700.9.

The Nasdaq Composite (IXIC) rebounds after opening down on June 4, 2020. (Tradingview)
Sparked by the economic fallout from pandemic-driven lockdowns, a record 42.6 million Americans have, to date, filed weekly jobless claims since March 21. Yet despite the elevated reading, Thursday’s figures suggest the worst is over for the labor market.
Surveys have also shown consumer confidence, manufacturing, and services industries stabilizing in May, suggesting the bottom may be in for the broader economic downturn triggered by a near shutdown of the country to control the spread of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
Many businesses had also reopened by mid-May. A new poll showed that nearly 8 in 10 small businesses in the United States are open in some capacity, though nearly two-thirds are worried about potential closures due to a second wave of the virus.
Negative sentiments toward both the overall national economy and local economies are softening, the poll showed, and most businesses that cut staff expect to rehire them.
These attitudes were reinforced by payroll data released on Wednesday, which showed signs of stabilization in the domestic labor market after the ADP National Employment Report said private employers laid off another 2.76 million workers, fewer than an expected 9 million job losses.
“The COVID-19 recession is over, barring a second wave of infections or policy error,” Mark Zandi, Moody’s Analytics chief economist told reporters. “But recovery will be a slog until there is a vaccine.”
Market attention is now focused on the U.S. government’s more comprehensive employment report for May scheduled for release on Friday.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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No New COVID-19 Cases From Crowds at Lake of the Ozarks Crowds: Health Official

Scores of people claimed crowds coming together at the Lake of the Ozarks during Memorial Day weekend would lead to a spike in CCP virus cases, but that has not been the case so far, a top health official said.
“The answer, to our knowledge, is no,” Dr. Randall Williams, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, said after a reporter asked whether new cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, came from the crowds coming together at the lake.
Health officials in Camden County traced the contacts of a Boone County resident who tested positive but didn’t locate any other cases, Williams said. “That’s now been a good while ago, 10 days, 11 days,” he said.
St. Louis County officials asked people who partied at the lake to self-quarantine for 14 days or until they tested negative for COVID-19.
County Executive Dr. Sam Page said at the time that people who went to the lake engaged in “reckless behavior” that endangered “countless people.”

Crowds of people gather at Coconuts Caribbean Beach Bar & Grill in Gravois Mills, Mo., on May 24, 2020. (Shelly Yang/Kansas City Star via AP)
But the Camden County Sheriff’s Office said the county relies on tourism for economic activity, adding in a statement that it was “the right and responsibility of each individual” who frequented pools, bars, and other businesses at the lake.
“Social distancing is not a crime and therefore the sheriff’s office has no authority to enforce actions in that regard,” the office said.
Nearly the entire country shut down in March in an attempt to slow the spread of the CCP virus. As states began reopening in April and May, different steps attracted widespread criticism.
Crowds gathering at the Lake of the Ozarks was one example.
The people there were packed into pools and other areas. Health officials say social distancing, or staying 6 feet or more away from non-household members, is a key part of preventing a resurgence of the CCP virus.

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the CCP virus, which causes COVID-19. (Niaid-RML via AP/The Canadian Press)
Williams’s statement came as Missouri officials have been testing more people but seeing the percent of people testing positive drop.
The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients has dropped by 40 percent over the past month, Republican Gov. Mike Parson said at the same briefing.
“Our hospitals are not overwhelmed. Our positivity rate continues to decline. People are recovering and we are moving forward,” he said.
The falling number of hospitalized COVID-19 stems from increased testing, Williams told reporters.
“As you decrease those new cases on the front end—and we think testing helps us do that—then you decrease the number of people, especially our elderly, who get sick and end up in a hospital,” he said.
The virus primarily causes severe illness in elderly patients and those with weakened immune systems. The average age of deaths in Missouri attributed to the disease is 77. Many of the deceased lived in nursing homes.
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Nancy Pelosi Visits Protesters Outside US Capitol

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) visited protesters outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Wednesday, ignoring CCP virus rules.
Pelosi, wearing a mask and a light blue suit and accompanied by security, greeted some protesters and stopped to pose for pictures.
Pelosi received applause for her appearance but some protesters challenged her motivation for appearing. Jizelle Hudgens, a college student, told CNN, “She’s not here for the right reasons.” Another protester alleged the top Democrat was only present for publicity.
A third, though, told the outlet that Pelosi was “showing solidarity, trying to lend her support, encouragement to the crowd.”
Pelosi told a CNN reporter on the scene that she supported Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, a former Democratic U.S. representative, upgrading the murder charge against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

Demonstrators sing “Lean On Me” during a protest near the White House in Washington on June 3, 2020. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
George Floyd, an unarmed black man, died on Memorial Day after Chauvin knelt on his neck. Autopsies said Floyd died from being deprived of oxygen while in police custody.
Ellison also charged the other three officers who were involved in Floyd’s arrest.
Floyd’s death sparked protests and riots across the nation, which continue over a week later.
Pelosi said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” earlier Wednesday that her daughter, Alexandra, who she described as a filmmaker journalist, was at the protest in Washington near the White House Monday night when officers fired smoke canisters and pepper balls—not tear gas, according to officials—to disperse the crowd, which had begun hurling projectiles at officers.
“These people were demonstrating peacefully and, all of a sudden, this barrage of security came through, using clubs to beat people and these explosive—little bullets that explode into stuff that burns your eyes,” Pelosi said.
“Maybe they didn’t have tear gas, I don’t know, but they had the elements of it for peaceful demonstrators to make way, make way for the president to walk through. What is this, a banana republic?”

Police move demonstrators away from St. John’s Church across Lafayette Park from the White House in Washington on June 1, 2020. (Alex Brandon/AP Photo)
President Donald Trump, a Republican, walked from the White House through the area where the protesters had been to St. John’s Church to survey damage inflicted previously by rioters.
Pelosi said it’s “heartwarming” to see the number of protesters, calling it a “pivotal moment … where people see real opportunity.”
“I see every crisis, every challenge as an opportunity. An opportunity now to address some of those grievances. And what is interesting about those crowds is they’re largely white. I think that that—well, my district, we have such beautiful diversity, every gathering is beautifully diverse. But, across the country, it’s bringing people together, community with unity. And hopefully that gives us a stronger chance in the United States Senate to get some of this legislation passed and sent on to the president,” she added later.
Other lawmakers have recently visited with protesters in Washington, including Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

President Donald Trump walks with Attorney General William Barr (L), Secretary of Defense Mark Esper (C), Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley (R), and others from the White House to visit St. John’s Church in Washington on June 1, 2020. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)
The protesters have been violating COVID-19-pandemic-fueled mandates in many areas, including Washington.
Under Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser’s rules, public events are capped at 10 people, and those events can only take place if social distancing, or maintaining 6 feet of distance from non-household members, takes place.
Thousands of protesters have gathered, often in close quarters, but the pandemic rules haven’t been applied.
Health experts say the protests could lead to a spike in cases of COVID-19, the new disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
Pelosi said she was concerned about that possibility. “I am indeed concerned about that because it is true that wearing a mask and social distancing are very important to stopping the spread. It is frightening, actually,” she said.
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5.5 Magnitude Earthquake Strikes Southern California: USGS

An earthquake that hit Southern California on Wednesday registered as a 5.5 on the Richter scale, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
The epicenter of the tremor occurred around Ridgecrest, located about 50 miles from Barstow, the USGS said.
The Los Angeles Times reported that the surrounding area experienced five quakes of 3.0 or greater in the past 10 days or so.
But Wednesday’s earthquake, which appeared to be the strongest, was an aftershock, said USGS’s Dr. Lucy Jones on Twitter.
“Yes, an earthquake. A M5.5 at the very southern end of the 2019 Ridgecrest aftershock zone. This is a large late aftershock – do you remember that I said these are common?” she wrote.
Caltech seismologist Zachary Ross said also noted that Wednesday’s quake was an aftershock of a quake that rattled the area in July 2019.
“Why is this considered a Ridgecrest aftershock after almost a year? Because the rate of events per day is still way above the rate before the sequence started,” Ross said in a Twitter message.
There were no reports of damage or injuries. However, on social media, a number of people expressed that they felt the tremor.
Kathy Marisol, who works at Red Rock Liquor in Ridgecrest, told the Mercury News that no bottles fell from shelves.
“It’s crazier here with the shaking. We hear the bottles rattling,” she said.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti acknowledged the earthquake hit while he addressed protests on Wednesday evening. He was asked if he felt the quake, responding that he hadn’t, according to The Hill.

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3 Men Linked to ‘Boogaloo’ Movement Tried Causing Destruction at Protests, Feds Say

Three men linked to the so-called boogaloo movement were arrested after plotting ways to cause conflict between protesters and police officers, federal prosecutors said.
Criminal complaints say Stephen Parshall, 35; Andrew Lynam, 23; and William Loomis, 40, were arrested over the weekend on charges including conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism and conspiracy to damage or destroy a building by means of explosives.
Members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force began investigating Parshall, who served in the U.S. Navy and is known as “Kiwi,” and Lynam, who served in the U.S. Air Force, in April, based on information provided by an informant. Loomis, a member of the U.S. Army Reserve, was added to the probe the next month.
All three were self-identified members of the “boogaloo” movement, which federal officials say is focused on the belief that a civil war and/or collapse of society is in the near future.
Lynam attended a ReOpen Nevada rally in April, where he met the FBI informant and Parshall. He said his group wanted to violently overthrow the U.S. government, according to a criminal complaint. He said he wanted to target structures without a defense system, putting an economic burden on businesses and government. Parshall displayed maps with terrains and locations and mentioned an unoccupied U.S. Forest Service ranger station.
The group went on a hike later that month to discuss plans. They plotted to destroy a ranger station near Lake Mead. Parshall took identification and phone numbers from each person to conduct background checks and Lynam asked each person to tell him in private what they could contribute to the group.
Lynam and Parshall, along with the source, took part in another protest to reopen Nevada. They talked afterwards of a plan for another protest the next week, saying they wanted to follow guidelines of the Irish Republican Army’s Green Book, including creating a chaotic and confusing scene by setting off fireworks, smoke bombs, or noise makers that were placed in predetermined locations before the beginning of the event.

Glass jars filled with gasoline to use as Molotov cocktails found in Stephen Parshall’s vehicle. (FBI)
The goal was stoking a confrontation between police and protesters, according to a complaint.
Lynam ended up backing out of the May 16 event but Parshall went and placed a bag on the ground near a Department of Motor Vehicles building. It was picked up by local police officers, who found spent shotgun shells, packaging for a new magazine, and an empty box.
Parshall opted against following through with the plan because he noticed police officers closely observing the movements of the group. Loomis appeared at the event and told the group he wanted to join and help take down the government.
The group saw a chance to foment mayhem with the protests taking place in the wake of George Floyd’s death. The source told authorities that the men discussed “causing an incident to incite chaos and possibly a riot, in response to the death” of Floyd. As some of the group caused a distraction for police, others planned to firebomb a power substation in Las Vegas. The idea was to create civil unrest and rioting throughout the city, the source claimed.
The men attended a Floyd-related protest on May 29 but they didn’t take action and no violence occurred. Afterwards, Parshall said he had supplies for Molotov cocktails and had purchased fireworks. The four people—the trio and the confidential source—agreed to take part in a Black Lives Matter protest on May 30.
As the men prepared to cause violence at the protest, they were arrested by the FBI.

A member of the Boogaloo Bois walks near protesters in Charlotte, North Carolina, on May 29, 2020. (Logan Cyrus/AFP via Getty Images)
“Violent instigators have hijacked peaceful protests and demonstrations across the country, including Nevada, exploiting the real and legitimate outrage over Mr. Floyd’s death for their own radical agendas,” U.S. Attorney Nicholas Trutanich for the District of Nevada said in a statement. “Law enforcement is focused on keeping violence and destruction from interfering with free public expression and threatening lives.”
Parshall, Lynam, and Loomis were hit with multiple state and federal charges, including conspiracy to damage and destroy by fire and explosives, possession of unregistered firearms, and conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism. They face decades in prison if convicted.
According to the Network Contagion Research Institute, a nonprofit that says it tracks misinformation and hate across social media, and the Anti-Defamation League, the boogaloo catchphrase, or meme, has roots in a 1984 movie and is a joke for some. For others, it signals a willingness to commit violence, particularly in the context of opposition to laws and policies that target gun ownership.
Analysis of major social media sites like Facebook shows an increase in boogaloo-related posts in the past several months.
Federal officials said in recent days that a range of extremist groups have been linked to organizing violence at protests and inciting riots.
Acting Department of Homeland Security Chad Wolf said in an appearance on Fox News Wednesday night that overall, officials have seen groups like Antifa, or anarchists in general, causing or instigating violence at protests.
“I think what we’re seeing right now, it’s loosely organized within a metropolitan city. Is it being organized across the country in an organized way? I don’t think that we see that yet. But, again, we’re continuing to analyze the intelligence and really getting the feedback from the state and local law enforcement officials in these individual cities,” Wolf said.
A number of cases have been opened specifically targeting some of the leaders of Antifa and other groups that are involved, he added.
Antifa is a far-left group with communist roots that openly advocates violence.
Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber

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Chinese Activists Recount the Tragedy of Tiananmen Square Massacre 31 Years Later

The first armored truck appeared around 11 p.m. on June 3, 1989. Around 1:30 a.m., gunshots were fired. The sound of gunfire continued through the night as tanks rolled in, crushing bodies and objects that were in their way.
It was a night of chaos at Tiananmen Square: bullets flying overhead as people fell, and panicked protesters propped limp bodies onto bikes, buses, and ambulances to ferry them away. Thousands of pro-democracy protesters are estimated to have died.
Lily Zhang was head nurse at a Beijing hospital 15 minutes walk away from the city square. She woke up to the sound of gunfire. Another nurse, sobbing, told her the pool of blood from injured protesters was “forming a river at the hospital.”
Three decades on, the bloodshed that became known as Tiananmen Square Massacre has continued to haunt the survivors, many of whom have fled communist China for greater freedom. They hope that by speaking up about what happened that fateful day, the public will always remember what was lost.
“This is the least I can do for my homeland,” Daniel Lou, now a businessman in New York, said in an interview.
Fateful Night
The Tiananmen Square protests, a youth-led movement advocating for democratic reforms in China, has become a taboo subject in China. To this day, the Chinese regime has not disclosed names or numbers of those killed during the crackdown.
Zhang, who had stayed at the square to care for the students on hunger strike until the night of June 3, rushed to the hospital in the morning upon hearing of the massacre. She was horrified when she arrived at her hospital to find a “warzone-like” scene.

A Chinese man stands alone to block a line of tanks heading east on Beijing’s Changan Blvd on June 5, 1989. (AP Photo/Jeff Widener, File)
After the crackdown began, ambulances from all 30 city hospitals were mobilized. Injured students filled every hospital bed, with some having to share between two persons. Their blood stained the lobby floor, hallways, and stairs. At Zhang’s hospital, at least 18 had died by the time they were carried into the facility.
The soldiers used dundrum bullets, which would expand inside one’s body and inflict further damage, Zhang noted. Many sustained grave wounds and were bleeding so profusely, that it was “impossible to revive them.”
At the hospital gate, a critically injured reporter with the state-owned China Sports Daily told the two health workers who carried him that he “didn’t imagine that the Chinese Communist Party would really open fire.”
“Shooting down unarmed students and commoners—what kind of ruling party is this?” were the last words he left to the world, Zhang recalled.
A journalist at the national news magazine Beijing Review at the time, Lou stood at a nearby street, watching what he called a “fateful night” unfold with the feeling of witnessing history.
“It’s a tragedy,” he said, adding that it was “the start of the moral decline of China.”
“The Chinese government led by communists turned its back against its own people,” Lou said. Those who made sacrifices “were punished instead of rewarded. What message is the country sending to its own people?” Many of the student activists involved in the movement were jailed in the wake of the Massacre.
Zhou Fengsuo, a student leader during the protests, counted 40 dead bodies in the early hours of June 4 as he walked from Tiananmen Square to Tsinghua University, where he was studying.
Before leaving the square, Zhou made a short speech vowing that they would make a comeback someday. “I felt when the regime has resorted to violence against people, they have lost the moral high ground,” he told The Epoch Times.
Zhang, who was 28 at the time and designated by the local government as a “model worker,” thought she would “resolutely love the nation and the Party.” But that day, she wept with her coworkers, saying the devastation had “chilled her heart.”
“I never thought this government is like this,” she said.
Aftermath
The sense of distrust only deepened after Chinese officials quickly denounced the protesters as rioters, and claimed that “no one was shot dead during the Tiananmen Square cleanup.” The government roundup came soon after.
Zhou, a student at a top university, spent one year in jail and was not allowed to go back to school.
At Zhang’s hospital, a meeting was called, requiring everyone to “take a stance” by stating there were no deaths. But the staff uniformly refused to attend the meeting.
“We all thought: who can utter such words against their conscience?” she said.
Two prominent news anchors from state broadcaster CCTV resigned after they wore black while reporting on the massacre on June 4. Beijing Review’s editor-in-chief also resigned to protect his staff, who had previously staged peaceful protests in support of the students. Nonetheless, Lou became a “key target” and was investigated for his “role” in the movement.
All three have since made their way to the United States, seeing no hope in a future under communist China.
Remembrance
The crackdown, the witnesses said, is a reminder of the Chinese regime’s brutality. Today, it is evidenced by authorities’ coverup of the CCP virus outbreak, which has left the world suffering, they said.
“A totalitarian regime will pose harm to all,” Zhou said.
Kenneth Lam, who traveled to Beijing to join the protests in May 1989 and stayed until June 4, was sitting on top of a monument in the center of the square that morning when armed soldiers rushed up. The protesters from Beijing pulled him away. Calling him by the nickname “Xiao Qiang,” they asked him to “go back alive, and tell this to the world.”
Working as a volunteer lawyer for Hong Kong protesters last year, Lam saw a similarity in the willingness of protesters from both movements to sacrifice their futures for the greater good.

Participants hold candles as the Goddess of Democracy statue (C) is seen at Hong Kong’s Victoria Park on June 4, 2017, during a candlelight vigil to mark the 28th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown in Beijing. (Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images)
At Tiananmen Square, hundreds had put on red scarves to participate in a hunger strike, while in Hong Kong, young protesters come to the streets to safeguard the city’s autonomy and freedoms, putting their safety and future careers on the line, Lam said.
“It’s a very bright and beautiful side of human nature,” he said.
This “striking similarity” 31 years later, Lam said, is evidence that there’s something within people more enduring than power and coercion.
“Authoritarian rule can never crush the bright side of human nature,” he said.
Olivia Li and Sarah Liang contributed to this report.
Follow Eva on Twitter: @EvaSailEast

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Solar to Cyber: Electricity Grid Security Gains Traction

America’s electricity grid needs inoculating.
Alongside a novel coronavirus, a solar superflare is one of six “Black Swan” scenarios that analysts believe could change the course of civilization.
The electromagnetic pulse (natural EMP) from such a superflare—a 12 percent risk per decade—isn’t the only threat to America’s grid.
Some experts warn that the threat of an EMP from a nuclear bomb, detonated high above the earth for the maximum effect, might be small, but remains all too possible.
Then there is the growing threat of cyber sabotage.
There’s even a physical threat—firing high-powered rifles at the right nine high voltage transformers, according to a leaked classified document, could crash the whole grid.
But the EMP experts are less worried than they have been for the last 20 years—because they believe something is finally being done.
They also say that all these threats to the grid (which, according to worst-case analysis, could see 90 percent of Americans dead in a year) have a single $4 billion cure.
‘A Sea Change’
President Donald Trump last month issued an executive order aimed at weeding out foreign influence in the electricity grid.
A year earlier, in March 2019, Trump had issued another wide-ranging executive order that picked up on the recommendations of the Congressional EMP Commission that had been stuck in Washington bureaucratic mud for over 15 years—an order echoed in later legislation passed by Congress.
“The grid is incredibly vulnerable right now to both man-made and natural hazards,” Tommy Waller of Secure the Grid told The Epoch Times via email. “Just drive by any electric substation and look for yourself what you can see.”
“If you can see it, you can shoot it—and small arms fire has already been used as a sabotage method against grid infrastructure.”

Transformers and power transmission lines are seen in a power distribution yard in Des Plaines, Illinois, on Aug. 18, 2003. (Tim Boyle/Getty Images)
He says that the utility companies have done a good job adapting to past experiences for terrestrial weather—like hurricanes. But he says they “have barely begun to protect the grid against a much more serious natural hazard: solar weather.”
Waller, who is vice president, special projects at the Center for Security Policy and an Epoch Times contributor, says he thinks that the CCP virus has woken people up to just how vulnerable they are.
“I, personally, have had a number of people who previously scoffed at personal and family preparedness come back to me and ask questions about what they could do to be more prepared in case the next disaster involved the one that I work full time to prevent—a long term blackout.”
Tom Spoehr, a defense analyst at the Heritage Foundation, who co-wrote a report on the EMP threat (both nuclear and natural) in 2018,  thinks it is timely to raise the issue of grid security.
“Just like the coronavirus pandemic, an EMP is a very low probability, but high consequence event that people are reluctant to pay much attention to or put money into until it happens.”
“If an EMP was to go off, and if it was to take down the power grid, it essentially takes the United States back 200 years,” he said. “Just so much of society is dependent on the power grid.”
Even the water supply depends on electric pumps.
“It isn’t like you just call the power company, they get up on a ladder and fix it,” says Spoehr. “It’s irrevocably blown. And then it requires months or years to fix—and that’s assuming you have the spares.”
After fading with the end of the Cold War, the EMP threat was pushed up the national security agenda again over the last couple of decades as concerns rose about rogue nuclear states and the increasing reliance on electronics. But without any thought leaders to champion it, it got lost in the political weeds, says Spoehr.
Driving the analysis of the EMP threat has been the Congressional EMP Commission, that ran from 2001 to 2017.
The commission had several members who had gained their expertise during Department of Defense research during the Cold War—when most data on the threat was gathered.
The EMP Commission chief of staff was Dr. Peter Pry.
Pry told The Epoch Times that Trump’s two executive orders between them are a “sea change in the way we think about national security.”
“It also signifies a decisive victory for those of us who have been warning for 20 years that the electric power grid and the other civilian critical infrastructures are just as important to our national security as our B-52 bombers, our ICBMs, or our aircraft carriers.”
“We cannot fight wars without this [electricity grid]—and our adversaries know it.”
“The Russians, the Chinese, the North Koreans, the Iranians, all of them have written military textbooks that describe how they can achieve a revolution in military affairs and might not even have to fight the U.S. Navy, Army, or Air Force, by taking out our electric grid in an attack.”
“It’s our Achilles heel. And we finally have a president and administration that, at least on paper, is saying the right things.”
President Trump’s most recent executive order, according to Waller, most significantly declares a national emergency regarding the threat to the United States’ bulk-power system.
“This declaration validates and reinforces the warnings issued by security experts for more than a decade that our nation’s electric grid is our most critical infrastructure and must be treated as a national security asset and protected accordingly, ” he said.
“The order also sends a direct message to both the utility industry and its regulators that the executive branch of government is fully aware that the current cybersecurity standards supposedly protecting the grid are fraught with loopholes that keep us vulnerable.”
The Knock-On Effect
The key to cyber sabotage is gaining control of the small computerized motors that control the grid, known as SCADAS.
“Once you understand that the electric grid is crucial to our national security, it makes no more sense to be buying SCADAS from China than it does to let China build our fighter aircraft or aircraft carriers or missiles,” says Pry. “We don’t trust Huawei to be installing 5G systems in the United States because we know of the grave cyber threat that poses to us in the future.”
Cyber, physical sabotage, solar superflares, and nuclear weapons might all work differently in how they initially cause problems—but ultimately they all threaten the entire grid because they can start a cascading effect.
The massive electronic pulse of a nuclear device or solar flare cause problems by dumping vast electromagnetic energy into the system, swamping sections, and then causing knock-on failures.
Physical failures, attacks, or perhaps cyber attacks don’t inject more energy but force existing power to be rerouted.
“There’s already a lot of energy sloshing around in the grid,” says Pry. “When [something] knocks down those power lines, the energy has to go somewhere. And what happens is it backs up and what’s called a system-generated overvoltage happens. This happened during Hurricane Sandy. You can actually look it up and see videos of transformers exploding.”

Firefighters attempt to extinguish a fire at a power plant on 13th Street in New York City on July 20, 2002. (Mario Tama/Gettty Images)
It is the cascading effect that makes the grid so vulnerable.
Pry cites a Wall Street Journal article that reported a classified study.
“They found that if you just took out nine key transformers out of the 2,000 in the United States that you can collapse the whole national electric grid,” he says. “Why is that? It’s because if you had high powered rifles or rocket-propelled grenade launchers, and you took out those nine transformers, that power has to go somewhere.”
High Voltage Transformers: Aqueducts of the Modern Age
The ensuing grid failure is not something that can be easily reversed, because the extra-high voltage transformers will have been destroyed.
“This high voltage transformer is to our electronics civilization what aqueducts and roads were to the Roman civilization of classical antiquity,” says Pry. “They couldn’t survive as a civilization without aqueducts. We can’t survive as an electronic civilization without those transformers.”
America doesn’t make the house-sized transformers anymore. They also can’t be bought off the shelf or easily swapped around. They are bespoke items created for each location that take up to 18 months to build.
There are two countries which now make transformers: Germany and South Korea.
Pry says that even though those two countries are allies, that’s not enough, given that a solar superflare would create huge supply pressures—just as seen with the global PPE supply in the pandemic.
The solution is to protect the transformers.
Just as surge arresters in plugs brace our laptops and TVs against fluctuations, they can protect the power grid itself.
The precedent has already been set by the military, says Pry, which protects nuclear retaliatory and strategic retaliatory capabilities, and command and control systems and early warning systems. “So we know we how to do it by using Faraday cages and blocking devices and surge arresters.”
“Basically, if we did that, we wouldn’t have to worry about EMP anymore,” says Pry. “There aren’t that many existential threats that you can actually take off the board, you can actually eliminate them.”
The currently agreed standard to protect the grid from “geomagnetic disturbances” (or EMPs from solar flares) is 10 times too low, according to the EMP Commission, which recommends an 85 volts per kilometer standard.
The current standard took five years to decide, and still has not been fully implemented, says Waller.
“The first practical action to securing the grid is to get the owners and operators of the electric infrastructure to commit to an all-hazards protection strategy, where the most critical and hardest to replace assets get protection first and the industry is afforded ample financial support to execute this rapidly—both through government grants and through adequate cost recovery,” says Waller.
$2.38 a Month
There are a range of different solutions.
Waller says the price tag to secure the grid depends on many factors.
“One factor is that it is always more expensive to ‘bolt-on’ protection, rather than to ‘bake it in’ from the beginning,” he says. “So a commitment to creating new grid infrastructure that is ‘all-hazards protected’ could go a long way to reducing the overall costs.”
The gold standard solution, proposed by the Foundation for Resilient Societies, hardens the grid to the same level as military protection, and would cost around $20-30 billion.
A different solution recommended by the EMP Commission in 2008 would come in at around $3-4 billion in today’s money, says Pry. “I think this is still the best plan. It doesn’t harden everything, but it hardens all 2,000 EHV transformers, hardens all the generators, hardens all the major control systems.”
For around $200 million, Pry says there is a more basic solution that protects the 500 most important extra-high voltage transformers and their control systems.
Worries About Bureaucracy
After Trump’s executive order last year, Congress included in the Defense Authorization Act various legislative demands around EMP threat preparedness.
While they welcome the new direction, Waller and Pry are still cautious that the process could get caught on bureaucratic and lobbying gears.
Waller says, “Part of the problem is that the electric power industry, through the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), sets its own standards, works with powerful lobbying organizations such as the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) to lobby on its behalf to keep these protection standards sufficiently low, and the well-funded Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).”
Spoehr says that with the grid split across thousands of electric companies across the states, there is little economic impetus to push companies to provide protection for customers beyond hurricane protection.
“There’s really been no government effort to direct our companies to do anything in light of this threat of EMP,” he says.
“Some power companies like Duke in the Carolinas have taken it on, just because they just wanted to do it, they wanted to make their electric grid more resilient.”
But by and large, the companies have seen it as a defense issue that should be handled by the federal government.
Pry notes that the report demanded by Trump’s 2019 executive order has yet to materialize, despite overshooting the year-long deadline, and worries that the bureaucrats may drag their heels.
“He’s dealing with the resistant bureaucracy that has never supported any of this,” says Pry. “Every single major person in the Department of Energy, in the Department of Homeland Security, who is charged with implementing President Trump’s EMP executive order, is an Obama administration hold-over.”
Whilst there have been reports in the last decade or so that have downplayed the threat, Pry has in the past dismissed them as junk science.
A report for the Joint Atomic Energy Intelligence Commission under Obama in 2014 which made much more light of the threat was lambasted by the EMP Commission as “factually erroneous and analytically unsound,” and called for the report to effectively be labeled with a fact-check warning.
Spoehr says that there are some very passionate researchers in the security community who have long warned about the issue, although he says a smaller proportion disagree.
“Typically, I find the people that downplay the threat, if you skip to the end of the article, you usually find they have no scientific credentials: they have a degree in international relations or something.”
One of the difficulties in assessing the EMP threat is that the bulk of the knowledge comes from the nuclear testing period—which is why many experts remain those schooled in the DoD during the Cold War.
“Even though these nuclear tests happened 50 years ago, most of them are still classified,” says Spoehr. “The Department of Defense, for whatever reason, is still unwilling by and large to declassify most of the information about their nuclear weapons tests.”

Characteristic mushroom shaped cloud begins formation after the first H-Bomb explosion at Eniwetok Atoll in the Pacific on Nov. 6, 1952. (Three Lions/Getty Images)
“The effects of nuclear weapons are well characterized, but not well-publicized.”
One of the best-known examples was a test of a nuclear weapon in the Pacific over Johnston Atol thousands of miles from Hawaii. “It knocked out the lights, streetlights in Hawaii,” says Spoehr. “This was old technologies in the 1960s: incandescent bulbs and things like that.”
Credible Threat
Spoehr says that the threat of a nuclear EMP missile from North Korea is credible.
“Two years ago, Kim Jong Un in North Korea successfully tested an ICBM that went super high. Most of the experts believe that it has the range to get to the edge of the Midwest of the United States.”
“So he’s got a missile that can get here. And we also know he has nuclear weapons.” But the question remains as to whether he has the technology to mount a heavy nuclear weapon onto a missile, Spoehr says.
“It would be foolhardy, reckless, to say that he does not because he keeps surprising people with his advancements.”
Two years ago, North Korea successfully tested a hydrogen bomb.
“You don’t have to do anything to the nuclear weapon to make it an EMP weapon,” says Spoehr. “There are ways to enhance that but it’s really a function of at what altitude the nuclear weapon is detonated.”
North Korean state news said at the time of the H-bomb test that it was “a multi-functional thermonuclear nuke with great destructive power which can be detonated even at high altitudes for a superpowerful EMP (electromagnetic pulse) attack according to strategic goals.”
According to the EMP Commission reports, a nuclear EMP weapon “could be delivered by satellite, by a wide variety of long- and short-range missiles, including cruise and anti-ship missiles, by a jet doing a zoom-climb, or even by a high-altitude balloon.”
“Some modes of attack could be executed relatively anonymously, thereby impairing deterrence,” notes the report (pdf).
Of course, such a nuclear attack may never happen, said Pry.
However, the threat from a solar superflare is a matter of when, not if, with NASA estimating the likelihood of such an event to be 10 to 12 percent in every decade.

A solar flare (R) erupting from giant sunspot 649. The powerful explosion hurled a coronal mass ejection (CME) into space, but it was directed toward Earth on Aug. 19, 2004. (HO/AFP via Getty Images)
The electromagnetic wave from solar flares has such a long wavelength that it cannot find its way directly into electronic devices. However, the miles and miles of straight-running power-lines in the electrical grid system act as an enormous antenna—pulling in the energy just as the railroad wires did during the Railroad Superstorm 100 years ago that burned down Central New England Railroad station.
Follow Simon on Twitter: @SPVeazey

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Surgeon General Warns of Virus Outbreaks From George Floyd Protests

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams in a file photo. (CNN)U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams said to expect new outbreaks of the CCP virus resulting from the nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd that have seen thousands of people gather in close proximity. While a majority of protesters nationwide have worn masks […]

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Detained US Protester Tells Police He’s COVID-19 Positive, Wasn’t Wearing Mask

A Pennsylvania man who was arrested June 1 during a protest over the death of George Floyd has said he was infected with COVID-19, according to officials. Julio Torres, 22, of East Lampeter Township, who was arrested Monday night for allegedly hurling objects at law enforcement officers, told officials during his arraignment that he had contracted […]

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George Floyd Tested Positive for COVID-19, Full Autopsy Report Shows

A full autopsy report released June 3 for George Floyd, who died last week in police custody in Minneapolis after an officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes, shows that the 46-year-old had previously tested positive for the CCP virus.
The full report from the Hennepin County Medical Examiner shows that Floyd tested positive for the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly referred to as the novel coronavirus, on April 3. He was reported as being asymptomatic.
Chief Medical Examiner Andrew Baker’s 20-page report, which was released with the permission of Floyd’s family, also found that while Floyd’s lungs appeared healthy, while his heart had some narrowing arteries.
The news comes after the Hennepin Medical Examiner in Minneapolis released its final public report on the cause of death for Floyd on Monday, which classified his manner of death on May 25 as a homicide.
It also noted that the father-of-two had recently used methamphetamine, was under the influence of fentanyl, and had heart issues at the time of his death. These were not listed under “cause of death.”
The examiner’s office stated (pdf) that Floyd suffered “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression,” adding that he “experienced a cardiopulmonary arrest while being restrained by law enforcement officer(s).”
The full report’s footnotes noted that signs of fentanyl toxicity can include “severe respiratory depression” and seizures.
A widely circulated video showed Floyd lying face-down on the pavement and handcuffed, as an officer was seen kneeling on the man’s neck for nearly 9 minutes. Meanwhile, the footage showed Floyd telling officers that he couldn’t breathe before his body went motionless.
According to a Minneapolis Fire Department report (pdf), Floyd was unresponsive and “pulseless” when he was being transported into an ambulance by paramedics from the site of his arrest to the hospital.
The police officer who was seen kneeling on the man’s neck, Derek Chauvin, on Tuesday had his charges upgraded from third-degree murder, to second-degree murder charges. Under Minnesota law, second-degree murder is defined as when a person causes the death of another person with intent without premeditation.
The three other police officers involved in the arrest have since been fired, and have been charged with aiding and abetting his murder, the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office revealed Tuesday.

This combination of photos provided by the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office in Minnesota on Wednesday, June 3, 2020, shows Derek Chauvin, from left, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao. Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder of George Floyd. Kueng, Lane and Thao have been charged with aiding and abetting Chauvin. (Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office via AP)
The preliminary autopsy findings by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner, which showed that Floyd did not die due to strangulation or traumatic oxygen deprivation, was decried by Floyd family attorney, Ben Crump.
According to Floyd’s family, the results of a second independent autopsy they commissioned said that “sustained pressure on the right side of Floyd’s carotid artery impeded blood flow to the brain, and weight on his back impeded his ability to breathe.”
The independent autopsy was carried out by famed forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden, who was hired by disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein’s brother to observe Epstein’s autopsy following his death in a jail cell last year.
Jack Phillips and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Trump Prefers Using National Guard Over Military to Contain Unrest

President Trump indicated on Wednesday afternoon that he would prefer not to use military personnel to quell the unrest that has been sparked by the death of George Floyd.
He made the remarks during an interview with Sean Spicer, his former press secretary, on Newsmax TV.
“It depends. I don’t think we will have to,” he said.
The president said he personally would prefer to use the National Guard to respond to the riots instead.
“We have very strong powers to do it. The National Guard is customary and we have a very powerful National Guard over 300,000 men and women, and we can do pretty much whatever we want,” he said.
Trump praised the National Guard for their work in Washington, D.C., and Minneapolis in protecting law and order.
He singled out New York City, where Mayor Bill de Blasio decided not to call in the National Guard. The city has been damaged by widespread rioting. Trump called the situation in the city is a “disaster.”
Earlier in the week, Trump had urged city mayors to call in the National Guard to help: “We can help them a lot. They have to ask.”
But “[i]f they don’t get it straightened out soon, I will take care of it,” he added.
Trump’s statement on his preferred response to the rioting nationwide comes after his announcement on Monday that he was dispatching “heavily armed soldiers, military personnel, and law enforcement officers” to contain the riots.
The Pentagon moved about 1,600 troops into the Washington area after Trump’s announcement about troop moblization, The Epoch Times reported.
The movement was described by Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Rath Hoffman as “a prudent planning measure in response to ongoing support to civil authorities operations.”
“Active duty elements are postured on military bases in the National Capitol Region but are not in Washington D.C. They are on heightened alert status but remain under Title X authority and are not participating in defense support to civil authority operations,” Hoffman said in a statement.

A man tries to toe away a car in a safe zone as the other car catches fire in a local parking garage in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 29, 2020. (Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images)
However, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Wednesday that he didn’t support deploying the military without first fully utilizing the National Guard to support civil authorities.
Esper said the federal government should not invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807 that allows the president to deploy U.S. military and federalized National Guard troops within the United States in some instances.
“I’ve always believed and continue to believe that the National Guard is best suited for performing domestic support to civil authorities in these situations, in support of local law enforcement. I say this not only as secretary of defense, but also as a former soldier and a former member of the National Guard,” he told the reporters.
He insisted that usage of military personnel should be the last resort in “most urgent and dire of situations.”
“We are not in one of those situations now. I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act,” he stated.

Police take back the streets at around midnight after firing copious amounts of tear gas to disperse protesters and rioters outside the Minneapolis Police 5th Precinct during the fourth night of protests and violence following the death of George Floyd, in Minneapolis, Minn., on May 29, 2020. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)
The death of Floyd, a black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes during an arrest last week, has caused national uproar. But the initially peaceful protests, expressing grief and anger over police brutality, have in many cases been marred by looting, violence, and arson.
Protests continued for days in dozens of cities around the nation, including Minneapolis, New York, Atlanta, Detroit, and Louisville, with occasional looting, arson, and vandalism.
According to a Minneapolis Fire Department report (pdf), Floyd was unresponsive and “pulseless” when he was transported into an ambulance by paramedics from the site of his arrest to the hospital.
The police officer who was kneeling on Floyd’s neck, Derek Chauvin, was fired on May 25, along with three other arresting officers.
Chauvin was charged with second-degree murder and the three other officers were charged with aiding and abetting his murder, The Epoch Times reported.

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George Floyd had tested positive for coronavirus before arrest, medical examiner's report

A 20-page autopsy for George Floyd, who died in the aftermath of a Minneapolis police arrest, shows he had previously tested positive for COVID-19.
The autopsy was released late Wednesday by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office, with the permission of Floyd’s family and following the coroner’s office on Monday releasing summary findings, according to the Associated Press.
The preliminary report found that Floyd had a heart attack while being restrained by police officers in his May 25 arrest and classified his death as a homicide.
Floyd’s arrest, captured on bystander video, and his death have sparked days of protests across the country.
The report by Chief Medical Examiner Andrew Baker showed Floyd had tested positive for COVID-19 on April 3 but appeared asymptomatic. The report also found Floyd’s lungs appeared healthy but he had some narrowing of arteries in the heart.
The county’s earlier summary report had listed fentanyl intoxication and recent methamphetamine use under “other significant conditions” but not under “cause of death.” The full report’s footnotes noted that signs of fentanyl toxicity can include “severe respiratory depression” and seizures, the wire service also reports.

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New York police officer stabbed, two wounded by gunshot in Brooklyn knife attack

Two police officers were shot and a third was stabbed in New York late Wednesday night, shortly after the 11 p.m. curfew imposed in the city to control violent protests. 
The injuries, among the most recent to police during the nationwide protests, occurred at about 11:45 p.m. in Brooklyn when an officer was reportedly stabbed in the neck. 
Fellow officers responded and a service revolver was discharged in an attempt to arrest the alleged attacker, resulting in one officer being struck by a bullet in the arm and another in the hand. The suspect was also reportedly shot. 
Fox News reports that roughly 200 officers have been injured in the protests in New York City, following the May 25 death of George Floyd, after being arrested by Minneapolis police. 

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Project Veritas purportedly goes undercover with Antifa

In a new video released by the undercover investigative group Project Veritas, an undercover reporter appears to have infiltrated Rose City Antifa as a “prospect” and says the far-left extremist group doesn’t hesitate to “incite some kind of violence.”
The reporter says he progressed through about half of the process to become a “full-fledged member” of the group. 
He explained that the group required potential members to attend lectures “in secret” at a bookstore and made people leave their cellphones in a bathroom.
“This bathroom is not only away from the main room where the lecture is taking place but also has a fan that muffles any sound from the room,” he explained.
“They do not hesitate to either pushback or incite some kind of violence,” the undercover reporter said. 
Project Veritas was founded by undercover videographer James O’Keefe. 
In one of the secretly recorded videos, an individual that Project Veritas identifies as having an affiliation with Rose City Antifa says, “Practice things like an eye gouge, it takes very little pressure to injure someone’s eyes.”

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May job losses could mean only half of American adults are working

On Friday, the government will release the May unemployment report, which is expected to show eight million American jobs lost during the third month of the global coronavirus pandemic.
The prediction follows the release Wednesday of the ADP private payroll report documenting only 2.75 million jobs lost in May, a number that fell far below the initial estimate. However, the official unemployment rate may very well still edge 20%, and the report may indicate that fewer than 50% of all adults are working.
Though nearly all layoffs in the past months have been due to the pandemic-induced shutdown, there remains uncertainty about how long those who lost jobs will be out of work. That uncertainty has now been compounded by riots that have overtaken several American cities in the wake of the death of George Floyd while in police custody on May 25. Though, analysts presently expect the economic impact of the riots to be limited, in large part because several of the cities they have impacted most directly were still largely closed down, like New York and Washington, D.C.
Consulting firm Oxford Economics, projects that the economy could regain as many as 17 million jobs by January 2021. But that would account for only about half of those that have been lost to date. Since March, 40 million Americans have applied for unemployment benefits, and Friday’s report could situate the current jobless number at 30 million.
Some people who lost their jobs during March and April have already been rehired. Goldman Sachs estimate that as many as 3 million people who were laid off at the beginning of the pandemic have been rehired.
Nearly 75% of U.S. states are allowing restaurants to resume dine-in service, and many have reopened movie theaters, nail and hair salons, and gyms — though restrictions on total capacity are largely being implemented. These developments have made it so that 10% of small companies reported adding jobs and hours in May, a huge uptick from where those figures stood in April.
However, significant levels of economic recovery likely won’t take place until members of the public are willing to return in droves to former activities with minimal fear of spreading or contracting the virus. Economists at Moodys Analytics predict that this likely won’t be the case until a vaccine is developed and available, or testing is extended.

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1.9 million filed jobless claims last week – first time since March number dips below 2 million

Roughly 1.9 million Americans last week filed for unemployment, marking the first time since March that fewer than 2 million per week have filed for jobless benefits.
This Labor Department report, combined with a smaller-than-anticipated drop in private payrolls in May, suggests that record losses to the U.S. labor market due to the coronavirus pandemic is now ending. 
Businesses have begun their reopening efforts in most states and cities, though they are now tasked with navigating low demand as consumer confidence slowly creeps back to pre-coronavirus levels. Though those efforts, especially for small business, are being set back in some cities by the property damage connected with the George Floyd protests.
Since March, 40 million Americans have applied for unemployment benefits, and the current jobless rate is close to 30 million.
The Labor Department’s May jobs report out Friday may show an unemployment rate that nears 20%. 

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Slate Magazine tweets that violence 'is an important tool for protesters'

The online magazine Slate on Thursday declared that violence “is an important tool for protesters,” a statement seemingly giving tacit approval to the destructive protests that have set numerous American cities ablaze over the past week. 
The website tweeted the claim while sharing an edition of its podcast “What’s Next,” one that examined “a history of violent protest.”

In that edition, host Mary Harris and Wellesley College Professor Kellie Carter Jackson discuss the idea of “violence as a lubricant for social change, a form of communication.”
Many activists have argued since the protests began that the violent individuals that regularly show up to demonstrations are not representative of the movement as a whole. Some have claimed that the various acts of arson, property destruction and looting have been carried out by white supremacists as part of a false flag operation. 

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Virginia Governor Northam to remove Robert E. Lee statue from Richmond, report

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam will reportedly on Thursday begin efforts to remove a statue in Richmond of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. 
The move by the Democratic governor would follow years of requests by civil rights activists to remove Confederacy-era monuments, arguing they are a symbol of the country’s segregated past. Supports of such monuments argue they are a part of American history, particularly in the South.  
Northam will have the statue removed from its pedestal and put into storage while his administration considers input for a new location, reports the Associated Press, based on information from an official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Richmond is the former capital of the Confederacy. The Lee statue is one of five Confederate monuments along the city’s Monument Avenue, part of a National Historic Landmark district.
Northam’s purported decision comes amid nationwide protests about police brutality toward black Americans, sparked by the May 25 death of George Floyd, who died after being arrested by Minneapolis police officers, including one who kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes. 
“That is a symbol for so many people, black and otherwise, of a time gone by of hate and oppression and being made to feel less than,” said state Delegate Jay Jones, a black lawmaker from Norfolk, told the wire service.

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House GOP Leader: 'Rioters and anarchists are not protesters'

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Thursday that looters are not “honoring the legacy” of civil rights leaders or George Floyd and argued that they should be considered criminals rather than protestors.
“It is not honoring the memory of George or the legacy of civil rights from Martin Luther King Jr. to John Lewis,” McCarthy said on a conference call with reporters. “His [Floyd’s] family deserves justice. Those who protest have a right and deserve to be heard. Those who loot deserve to have consequences.”
McCarthy’s comments come as celebrities donate thousands of dollars to organizations such as the Bail Project and the National Lawyers Guild, which are raising money to bail out protestors. Neither organizations responded when Just the News asked whether they are using donations to bail out individuals arrested at protests for looting, vandalism or destruction to property.
“Rioters and anarchists are not protesters. They are criminals. In some cases they have attacked and even killed the very people protecting communities in this time of chaos,” McCarthy said. “Over the past several days we have experienced more pain and loss as a nation.”
The California Republican mentioned David Dorn, a retired St. Louis Police captain who was killed during the riots in the city, and David Patrick Underwood, a federal law enforcement officer who was shot during the violent protests in Oakland.
“In all, we have lost 11 people since the violence ensued. Countless others have been injured,” McCarthy said. “This behavior – and tolerance of this behavior – is an affront to peaceful protest, the men and women exercising their First Amendment rights, and our local first responders that keep the peace in our communities. Violence is not the answer.”
McCarthy argued that House Democratic leaders shouldn’t write policing legislation first and scheduled a vote under the new remote proxy voting system. He called on the Democratic-led House to come back into session to work on the policing legislation in a bipartisan way. 
“I think we could easily find common ground on both sides and we could do it swiftly, but it’s more difficult if you are away,” he said.

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US Navy veteran released from Iranian custody after a year

Michael White, a United States Navy Veteran who was held captive in Iran for more than a year, has been released. 
White traveled to Iran in July of 2018. In January of 2019, the Iranian government confirmed that they had arrested the American citizen and sentenced him to 13 years in prison.
In March, White, whose family says he has underlying medical conditions, was placed in Swiss custody and admitted to a hospital with coronavirus-related symptoms. He remained in the custody of the Swiss until his release to the US was secured.
At the outset of the coronavirus pandemic, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for Iran to release Americans being wrongfully detained, and cautioned that the US would hold them accountable for any US citizens who died from the coronavirus while in their custody.
White’s release was preceded by the recent return of an Iranian scientist was returned to his nation of origin following a period of detainment by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 
US officials are denying the scientist’s return was part of a prisoner exchange for the Navy vet. A State Department spokesperson said that the United States has been attempting to deport the Iranian scientist since late 2019. 
The State Department has not yet commented on White’s release.

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Rushmore jackpot: Online lottery created to join Trump at fireworks show at monument

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and Secretary of Tourism Jim Hagen on Thursday discussed the upcoming July 3, 2020 fireworks show that President Trump is slated attend at the iconic Mount Rushmore National Memorial.
People who want to nab a ticket for the festivities will need to enter an online lottery that opens Friday morning and will allow around 7,500 to attend the Independence Day celebration.
The governor indicated that social distancing will not factor into the event.
“We did have a plan originally of social distancing. We do not anticipate doing any social distancing actives during the celebration,” the governor said.
She urged the sick and those at risk to remain at home.
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NFL's Brees apologizes for kneeling comment

NFL quarterback Drew Brees apologized Thursday for saying players kneeling during the national anthem are “disrespecting” America, amid widespread backlash for the comment.
“It breaks my heart to know the pain I have caused,” the New Orlean Saints quarterback said in an Instagram post Thursday, one day after he made the public comment. “In an attempt to talk about respect, unity, and solidarity centered around the American flag and the national anthem, I made comments that were insensitive and completely missed the mark on the issues we are facing right now as a country.”
Professional athletes kneeling during the anthem became a culture flashpoint in 2016 after then-San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the movement, in response to police brutality toward black Americans. The issue resurfaced May 25 when George Floyd died after being arrested by Minnesota police officers, including one who kneeled on his neck.
The arrest and death has sparked nationwide protests about the issue.
Brees said Wednesday: “I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country. Is everything right with our country right now? No, it is not. We still have a long way to go. But I think what you do by standing there and showing respect to the flag with your hand over your heart, is it shows unity.”

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With trifecta of tweets, Trump fires back at critics Murkowski, Mattis and Kelly

President Trump on Thursday unleashed Twitter attacks against former Defense Secretary James Mattis, former Chief of Staff John Kelly and sitting Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, pledging to see the latter unseated during her next election.
Trump said he will campaign against Murkowski and endorse a candidate who challenges her. Earlier on Thursday, Murkowski said that she is “struggling” with whether to support the president in the upcoming election.
“Few people know where they’ll be in two years from now, but I do, in the Great State of Alaska (which I love) campaigning against Senator Lisa Murkowski. She voted against HealthCare, Justice Kavanaugh, and much else,” Trump tweeted. “Get any candidate ready, good or bad, I don’t care, I’m endorsing. If you have a pulse, I’m with you!”

Trump also tweeted the text of a note in which his former attorney John Dowd excoriated James Mattis, the former Defense Secretary who on Wednesday issued a scathing rebuke of the president. The president urged people to read the note that Dowd wrote lambasting Mattis.
“Perhaps, your anger is borne of embarrassment for your own failure as the leader of Central Command,” Dowd said to Mattis in the note.

And Trump’s former Chief of Staff John Kelly did not escape the president’s fiery criticism on Thursday either. The Washington Post quoted Kelly disputing Trump’s claim that he fired Mattis and requested his resignation.
“The president did not fire him. He did not ask for his resignation,” Kelly said. “The president has clearly forgotten how it actually happened or is confused. The president tweeted a very positive tweet about Jim until he started to see on Fox News their interpretation of his letter. Then he got nasty. Jim Mattis is an honorable man.”
Trump lobbed several tweets about Kelly, including one in which he said Kelly “was totally exhausted by the job, and in the end just slinked away into obscurity.”

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Study finds 70 percent of those infected in Hong Kong by COVID-19 didn't spread virus

A study by two University of Hong Kong epidemiologists finds that the vast majority of coronavirus patients they surveyed didn’t infect others and that the virus might largely be driven by what’s known as “superspreaders.”
Professors Dillon Adam and Benjamin Cowling said they reviewed data from Hong Kong, which has just under 1,100 cases and only four deaths. 
Reviewing most of those cases, the scientists assert that “superspreading has overwhelmingly contributed to the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in the city overall,” as they write in the New York Times. 
Superspreaders are such a dominant factor in the transmission of the coronavirus, they argue, that the vast majority of infected individuals don’t even infect anyone else. 
“Seventy percent of the people infected did not pass on the virus to anyone,” they found, while also reporting that just 30% of individuals were responsible for all of the transmissions in the studied cases.
Noting that there are not yet any known factors that contribute to a patient becoming a superspreader, the scientists argue that the data can actually be seen as “reassuring,” because it “suggests a way to stop SARS-CoV-2 that is both less onerous and more effective than many of the strategies that have been pursued so far.”
“The epidemic’s growth can be controlled with tactics far less disruptive, socially and economically, than the extended lockdowns or other extreme forms of social distancing that much of the world has experienced over the past few months,” they argue. 

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Barr says signs of 'foreign actors' exacerbating violence on George Floyd protests

Attorney General William Barr said Thursday that intelligence officials have evidence of foreign meddling in the George Floyd protests.
“We’re seeing foreign actors playing all sides to exacerbate the violence” in the protests, Barr said.
He also identified three major groups involved in the protests – peaceful demonstrators, those exploiting the protests to loot and “extremist agitators” including Antifa and others across the political spectrum.
In a public address about Floyd’s death and the subsequent protests, the attorney general said President Trump has granted him full authority to investigate how the 46-year-old Floyd died during a May 25 arrest in which a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck until he lost consciousness.
“The president has directed me to spare no effort,” he said. “We will work hard to bring good out of bad.”
He condemned in totality the lawbreaking, violent rioters that have taken to the streets of cities across America for the past nine nights. “When the rule of law breaks down, the promise of America does also,” said Barr.
Barr had previously spoken about the wave of militant protestors agitating chaos around the country. On Saturday, he said “It is a federal crime to cross state lines or to use interstate facilities to incite or participate in violent rioting, and we will enforce those laws.”

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Senator Graham postpones Crossfire Hurricane subpoenas until next week

Citing the need for a “full discussion” on the issue, Sen. Lindsey Graham on Thursday postponed a crucial vote on subpoena proceedings for numerous Obama administration officials, as part of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s inquiry into the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation. 
Graham, the committee chairman, said the panel will “do what this committee needs to do, and we’re doing to fight it out and we’re going to vote. And we’re not going to be done today, so I don’t see a resolution this day, if you need to go somewhere go.”
He said the committee would “carry this over to next week so we can have a full discussion.”
Graham, a South Carolina Republican, later said he had the necessary votes to pass the subpoena measure but that he wanted to allow more time to deliberate on the issue, according to the Hill. 
The decision was part of a tense, at times contentious meeting among committee members
Nebraska GOP Sen. Ben Sasse accused members of “trolling for soundbites” in front of video cameras, while Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin claimed the proceedings were about “a president who just can’t get over it,” referring to Crossfire Hurricane, the FBI’s probe into whether members of the 2016 Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the outcome of the race.
The meeting Thursday followed a lengthy committee hearing Wednesday in which former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was questioned by members about his involvement in the Trump-Russia investigation.
Rosenstein offered several stunning admissions to the panel, including his acknowledgment that, prior to the launch of the Mueller special council investigation, there was no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

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First of George Floyd memorials being held this afternoon in Minneapolis

George Floyd, who died on May 25 while in the custody of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, will be memorialized Thursday in the Minnesota city.
An attorney representing the Floyd family and civil rights leader the Reverend Al Sharpton are expected to deliver remarks.
There are several services around the country planned for the coming days to memorialize Floyd, who was 46 at the time of his death. A public viewing and private service will be held in Raeford, North Carolina, on Saturday. Floyd was born in North Carolina, and several members of his family still reside there.
Next Monday, a public memorial will be held in Houston, where Floyd lived prior to moving to Minneapolis several years ago. It has been reported that former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democrats’ presumptive 2020 presidential nominee, will attend the service in Houston.
Also this afternoon, Thomas Lane, Tou Thao, and A.J. Kueng – the three officers who watched as Chauvin pressed his knee to Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes – will make their first court appearance.
On Wednesday, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced that he would seek an increased charge against Chauvin, and charges of aiding and abetting murder against the three officers who were charged for the first time yesterday.
Floyd’s death has led to a national wave of protests – some of which have turned into violent and destructive riots – demanding police reform and equal treatment for the black community.

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D.C. allowed residents to vote by email in this week's presidential primary

The Washington, D.C., government allowed residents on Tuesday to vote in the presidential primary via email, a decision one official called a “last resort” for those who hadn’t received absentee ballots in the mail. 
Washington, like numerous states, had encouraged mail-in voting during the primary season due to concerns that the coronavirus might spread at crowded polling places. Yet many voters who requested such ballots said they hadn’t received them, leading to the decision to allow them to vote via email. 
The process is normally considered less safe than either absentee or in-person voting. Rice University computer-science professor Dan Wallach told the Wall Street Journal that “under normal circumstances, this would be considered an epic failure,” though he acknowledged that “these are not normal circumstances.” 
The decision comes alongside concerns about possible voter fraud as mor politicians push for mail-in voting in the presidential election in November – citing worries that the pandemic may spike if too many people head to the polls. 
There have been several hundred documented cases of voter fraud, including numerous mail-in fraud schemes, since President Trump was elected in 2016. 

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Murkowski says she is 'struggling' with whether to support Trump during the election

Alaska GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski said Thursday that she is “struggling” with whether to support President Trump’s 2020 reelection, saying she has been searching for “the right words” to describe how she feels about the president.
Murkowski cited a recent statement by former Secretary of Defense James Mattis in which he argues Trump is trying to “divide us” and that America is during the past 10 days of protests are “the consequences of three years of (Trump’s) deliberate effort.”
Murkowski said Mattis’s statement was “true, and honest and necessary and overdue.”
“I am struggling with it,” she told reporters of her concerns over supporting Trump in November. “I have struggled with it for a long time, I think you know that. I didn’t support the president in the initial election, and I work hard to try to make sure that I’m able to represent my state well that I’m able to work with any administration and any president.”
“He is our duly elected president, I will continue to work with him. I will continue to work with this administration, but I think right now, as we are all struggling to find ways to express the words that need to be expressed appropriately, questions about who I’m going to vote for not going to vote for I think are distracting at the moment.”
Murkowski’s party contrarianism made headlines a few years ago when, during the acrimonious hearings to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, she first voted against advancing Kavanaugh’s nomination and then voted “present” during the final confirmation.
She voted present, she said, so a fellow senator would not have to leave his daughter’s wedding to cast his own vote. 

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Poll finds most Americans support Trump idea to pay U.S. companies to remove operations from China

Most Americans support a proposal from the Trump administration to pay U.S. companies to remove operations from China and Hong Kong, according to a new Just the News Daily Poll with Scott Rasmussen.
The poll found that just over half (52%) of respondents support the idea of helping cover the cost of moving American companies home. Thirty percent (30%) are opposed. Only a third (33%) have strong opinions on the question, half (49%) either slightly favor or oppose.

Just the News Daily Poll
With Scott Rasmussen

“This is probably a reflection of the fact that the idea has not been widely discussed,” Rasmussen said. “Partisan differences can be found, but they are more muted than in response to many topics.” 
Sixty-seven percent (67%) of GOP voters at least somewhat support the idea. So do 47% of Independents and 42% of Democrats.
“It’s likely that voters strongly embrace the concept of the companies returning home for at least three reasons: punishing China, bringing manufacturing jobs home, and strengthening supply lines,” Rasmussen said. “However, there is probably also some resistance to the idea of subsidizing companies to do what many Americans think those companies should do on their own. And, among many voters, there is probably some residual distaste over the companies decision to set up shop in China in the first place.”
Last week, President Trump said the United States would also punish China for what the president said was unfair trade practices and for violating its governance agreement with Hong Kong.
“Americans are entitled to fairness and transparency,” Trump said in a recent Rose Garden press conference. “China’s pattern of misconduct is well known.”
The president also said he’s seeking “fair and reciprocal treatment” from China. 
Trump criticized the Chinese communist government’s recent restrictions on Hong Kong’s self-governance provisions – agreed to by the Chinese government in order for the United Kingdom to withdraw from Hong Kong in 1997.
“Hong Kong was secure and prosperous as a free society,” Trump said, accusing China of “degrading” Hong Kong’s freedoms, violating its “one country, two systems” 27 years earlier than promised to the United Kingdom.
Trump said that the United States would revoke commercial and traveling benefits currently in place for Hong Kong due to Chinese actions.
Just the News Daily Poll respondents were asked “Many American companies have operations in China and Hong Kong. To encourage them to return their supply chains and production to the United States, a proposal has been made for the federal government to help pay their moving costs. Do you favor or oppose this proposal?” They replied as below:
20% Strongly Favor
32% Somewhat Favor
17% Somewhat Oppose
13% Strongly Oppose
18% Not Sure 
The national survey of 1,200 registered voters was conducted May 28-30, 2020 by Rasmussen, a polling veteran. Margin of sampling error: +/- 2.8% for full sample. 
To see the full demographic cross-tabulations for this polling question, click below:

To see the methodology and sample demographics for this polling question, click below:

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Huge pool party that ignited global fears about COVID outbreak has not resulted in spike in cases

A party at the Lake of the Ozarks in central Missouri, one that made international headlines a week ago due to photos showing a densely packed pool filled with carefree partygoers apparently unconcerned about COVID-19, has yet to result in a breakout of the virus, according to the state’s top health official. 
Photographs of the event – in which attendees appeared to flout essentially every “social distancing” rule promulgated by health authorities over the last several months – were circulated around the globe, with international newspapers such as the Guardian reporting that the pool-partiers “apparently forgot that Covid-19 existed.” 

St. Louis County officials were so alarmed by the party that they issued a travel advisory over it, saying the event was “an international example of bad judgment.”
Yet concerns over the party’s possibly starting a COVID-19 outbreak appear to have been largely unfounded.
One individual at that party allegedly tested positive for the disease after attending it. Asked on Monday at a press conference whether there “have been any other cases of COVID-19 connected to the Lake of the Ozark case of the individual who tested positive,” Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services Director Randall Williams said, “not that I’m aware of.” 
The party happened over Memorial Day weekend, May 23-24. The CDC says COVID-19 symptoms can appear 2-14 days after being infected by the virus. 
Though Williams indicated on Monday that the party did not result in an outbreak of coronavirus, the event was still being touted as a scandal several days later.
On Thursday, Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro – brandishing a photograph of the event – said in a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing that the site of the large crowd of partygoers was “unbelievable.”
“Look at this. Look at these folks,” she said, waving the picture. 

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Pelosi: Democrats have a 'better chance' at passing 'police brutality' bills now than ever before

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that House and Senate Democrats will put forth a legislative package in the next few days that addresses “police brutality” and “law enforcement disparity.” 
The California Democrat argued that Congress has a greater likelihood of passing such legislation in the aftermath of George Floyd’s recent death – compared to previous efforts following similar incidents. 
“Many of these bills have been in the hopper,” she said during a press conference. “But now, with all the public exposure of it, we have a better chance of getting them turned into law. It is a moment.”
Pelosi said the legislative package will be “very comprehensive” and suggested specifics will be announced Monday.
“This something completely different,” Pelosi said of Floyd’s death May 25 after he was arrested by Minneapolis police officers, including one who kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
“We have reached, as people say, an inflection point. This was a tinderbox. It has changed everything. This one death, as sad as it is and as dignified and inspiring as George Floyd’s family has been, it’s also part of a pattern and a series of injustices,” she said. “People have just decided they were turning out and they’re not going away until they see the change that they want.”
Pelosi hopes there will be “bipartisan cooperation” on the police brutality package the Democrats plan to unveil.
“In a matter of months we’ll be able to make a complete difference,” she said.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said he agreed with Pelosi’s comments, adding that he wants to see policing legislation passed before July 4.
“I am hopeful, as Nancy said, public sentiment is everything,” the New York Democrat said. 
Schumer predicted that the protests and the “public outcry” for action will “force Republicans senators” to pressure Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader of the GOP-controlled chamber, to support whatever policing bill the Democratic-led House passes.
“I’m hopeful we can get that done,” he said.

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Amid Riots, Ice Cream Shop Owner Stands Outside, Pleads With Looters for 3 Nights

MINNEAPOLIS—Single-handedly, Ricardo Espin possibly saved a building containing four businesses from being smashed and burned in the heart of the Minneapolis riots. Armed only with ample courage, Espin stood outside his ice cream shop on East Lake Street and Park Avenue for three nights, pleading with rioters to not damage his shop. Situated about a […]

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George Floyd’s Death Renews Calls to Revisit ‘Qualified Immunity’ for Police Misconduct

Nationwide protests against police violence are still persisting more than a week after George Floyd died while taking a knee to the neck by a Minneapolis police officer. His death has ignited more than just protests and riots—the ongoing debate on a Supreme Court-made legal doctrine that insulates police officers from civil liability has reached […]

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Lawmakers scold Air Force over lack of details on massive battle management effort

A pair of Georgia lawmakers voiced consternation with the Air Force’s Advanced Battle Management System, criticizing the service Wednesday for being late to submit information about the program.In the fiscal 2020 defense authorization bill, lawmakers demanded that the Air Force submit a report on the ABMS program by June 1. That report — which was to include details about the technologies incorporated into the ABMS family of systems and program requirements — has not been received, according to Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler.

“Without this required documentation, Congress cannot perform its oversight role to ensure on-time, on-budget development of this critical weapon system,” Perdue and Loeffler wrote in a letter to Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett, dated June 2.
“We support the work of the Air Force as it equips its warfighters of tomorrow, and are proud that Robins Air Force Base will be home to these capabilities vital for success in future combat,” the lawmakers added. “As ABMS plays a pivotal role in implementing the National Defense Strategy, we respectfully request the documentation required to be submitted to Congress as soon as possible.”
Perdue and Loeffler’s letter comes just days after the Air Force awarded contracts — each with a ceiling value of $950 million — to 28 vendors for various technologies to enable the Joint All Domain Command and Control concept, or JADC2.

The Advanced Battle Management System is seen as the Air Force’s primary vehicle for executing JADC2. The effort’s goal is to seamlessly connect the military’s sensors with shooters, regardless of which service owns and operates the equipment.

The Air Force says ABMS will accomplish that aim by fielding a suite of new hardware and software that connects existing platforms, creates a cloud network of data, and uses machine learning to push data to the users that need it. However, the service has not solidified a list of traditional requirements and prefers to test new technologies in an ad hoc fashion as they are ready through experiments held periodically throughout the year.

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Perdue and Loeffler have a parochial interest in ABMS, which was initially pitched by the Air Force as a replacement for its fleet of E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System airplanes, which provide ground surveillance and tracking information for all the military services. The current JSTARS inventory is based at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia.
Although the Air Force had planned to replace the 17 JSTARS planes with a new fleet of modified commercial aircraft equipped with state-of-the-art sensors, the service opted in 2018 to cancel the replacement program in favor of a family of networked systems known as ABMS, which was seen as more survivable in a war against Russia and China.
Perdue, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, cautiously supported the Air Force plan. In exchange, the service agreed to base a portion of the ABMS mission at Robins.

“The air and space systems that will make up the Advanced Battle Management System will include a command center and associated supporting activities. The new network will also include some remotely piloted aircraft based out of Robins Air Force Base with sensor capabilities to collect and transmit information for the battlefield,” read a June 2018 news release from Perdue’s office.
However, the Air Force’s conception of the ABMS program has become increasingly broad, with officials hesitant to identify the platforms that will become part of the system as well as what new assets will eventually replace the JSTARS based at Robins.
Perdue and Loeffler’s letter could be a sign that Georgia lawmakers are becoming increasingly impatient. During a SASC hearing in March, Perdue asked Barrett to commit to sending reports related to ABMS that were requested in the fiscal 2019 defense authorization act but never received. Barrett responded that she could not make that promise.
“I am not confident that I could commit to it today. We’ll evaluate it, and may I get back with you, even later today?” she said.

“Absolutely. If changes need to be made to the structure of oversight, now’s the time,” Perdue said. “It’s really unacceptable that we don’t get these reports on time.”

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People Are Blowing Up, or Just Taking, ATMs in Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA—Explosions have destroyed or damaged 50 cash machines in and near Philadelphia since the weekend, and one man has died, in a coordinated effort to steal them or blow them up and take the money inside, authorities said.
The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives is leading the investigation, and no arrests have been announced. A 24-year-old man died hours after trying to break into an ATM early Tuesday, and explosives were recovered, police said.
But the ATM hits have continued, with explosions echoing overnight into Wednesday in the city or just outside it. Police are asking businesses that host the machines to take the cash out to discourage further hits.
“It’s not worth it,” Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said Wednesday. “It’s not worth the injuries that we’re seeing associated with this, and it’s not worth the risk to the community and the danger that it’s been imposing.”

A damaged ATM machine outside a KeyBank branch in downtown Pittsburgh on Sunday, May 31, 2020. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)
Outlaw made her comments Wednesday while taking follow-up questions at a news briefing about the unrest, noting a “marked increase in attempts to forcibly enter ATM machines.”

A broken ATM at a Wells Fargo Bank at Park West Town Center in West Philadelphia, on May 31, 2020. (Tyger Williams/The Philadelphia Inquirer/AP)
She and other officials have not hinted whether they believe the ATM hits might be a crime of opportunity during the unrest, could have some other connection, or are altogether unrelated.
Cash machines in some other cities, including Pittsburgh and Minneapolis, have been looted or damaged in recent days, but Philadelphia’s problem appears to be on a larger scale.
Thieves have blown up the machines, usually at convenience stores and gas stations, in at least 50 cases to get to the cash, while sometimes the entire machines are stolen, officials said.
Around 5 a.m. Wednesday, the ATM hits spread outside the city for the first time to neighboring Upper Darby Township when an explosion was reported at a machine outside a strip-mall nail salon.

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Major Pentagon IT programs are reducing costs, but development challenges remain

A federal watchdog’s review of 15 major information technology investments at the Department of Defense found that many programs were below cost estimates, though several had delays in their original timelines, shortfalls in cybersecurity testing and software development workforce challenges.The Government Accountability Office’s 18th annual “Defense Acquisitions Annual Report,” released June 3, evaluated 15 major business and non-business information technology programs, the first time the GAO evaluated IT programs as part of the review. The IT projects the GAO examined totaled $15.1 billion in spending.

The report found that 11 of the 15 systems saw decreases in their in their life-cycle cost estimates.
The biggest cost saver was the Army Contract Writing System, which decreased its cost estimate by $229 million. That system will replace several legacy platforms and serve as the Army’s enterprise-wide contract management platform. Officials working on the systems with lower price tags said that the drops were due to contract cost revisions, program management efficiencies and lower costs than expected.
Two of the remaining four programs that had higher costs experienced increases of over 20 percent, though the report doesn’t note which programs. One program, not named in the report, experienced an increase of $315 million, or 151 percent. Officials from the unexpectedly expensive projects cited developmental challenges as a reason for the increases.
Two-thirds of the projects experienced schedule delays, ranging from one month for the Marine Corps’ Air Command and Control System Increment One, to five years for the Air Force’s Defense Enterprise Accounting and Management System-Increment One. Officials for delayed programs told the GAO that slowdowns occurred because of cybersecurity gaps, performance issues and longer-than expected maintenance periods.

The GAO also evaluated the use of software development by the systems, finding that 14 of the 15 programs were using various types of iterative software development, such as agile, incremental and waterfall, among others.
Among the other findings:

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– All eight major business IT systems it evaluated were using commercial-off-the-shelf software, consistent with DoD guidance from 2017. COTS software is supposed to reduce cost, development time and increase delivery.
– Six of the 15 systems were conducting cybersecurity testing during the developmental stages of the program, which allows the services to fix vulnerabilities early in the software life cycle before the program is used, saving money and reduce delays before systems are fully implemented.
– Eleven of the 15 programs conducted operational cybersecurity testing, during which vulnerabilities and their effects are identified in a mission context, the GAO said.
While Pentagon leaders push faster delivery times on software, many programs reported workforce challenges associated with rapid development. According to the GAO, nine of the 15 programs said it was “difficult to find staff with the requisite expertise.” Seven struggled to hire staff fast enough to complete development, while six reported not meeting software engineering staff plans to be a challenge.

The watchdog evaluated five programs from the Air Force, four Navy projects, two Army investments and four programs from the office of the secretary of defense. The GAO report said that a companion report on other major Pentagon IT systems would be released later this year.

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Federal Prosecution Referrals Plummeted in April Amid Worst of CCP Virus Pandemic; Civil Rights, Immigration Cases Hardest Hit

Federal prosecutors filed 80 percent fewer cases in April than just two months earlier due to the effects of the CCP Virus pandemic, according to data made public by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University.
“New criminal prosecutions dropped by 80 percent between February and April, from 13,843 during February 2020, before federal shutdowns to control the spread of COVID-19 began, to just 2,824 in April 2020. This means that only one-fifth the usual prosecutions took place,” TRAC said in a report made public May 28.
More than 108,000 individuals in the United States have died due to the CCP Virus, which is also known as the novel coronavirus. TRAC is a non-profit organization that uses the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to obtain the most current available data on a variety of activities of the federal government.
The huge decrease in prosecutions was accompanied by a similarly dramatic drop in the number of cases referred to the Department of Justice (DOJ) for possible prosecution.
The data showed 17,593 referrals that led to 13,843 prosecutions and 12,109 convictions in February, according to TRAC. By April, referrals were down to 7,926, prosecutions dropped to 2,824.
There were still 6,638 convictions but most of those were from previously filed cases, and “federal attorneys handling prosecutions already underway were able to strike plea agreements,” TRAC reported.
In terms of types of litigation, the biggest declines in April 2020 compared to the monthly average for the previous five months were seen in civil rights and immigration cases at 92 percent and 86 percent, respectively.
Cases involving challenges to government regulation declined 80 percent during the same period, while white-collar crime dropped 79 percent, weapons charges 77 percent and environmental cases were down 76 percent.
The data obtained by TRAC also revealed some unexpected trends among the five DOJ investigative agencies whose referrals for prosecution are covered.
Other federal departments and agencies also must depend upon DOJ to prosecute cases recommended by them, but they account for only one-fifth of all referrals. The results of their referrals are not covered in the present data made public by TRAC.
Seventy percent of the cases referred by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency led to prosecutions being filed in federal court by DOJ attorneys.
Next came the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency at 66 percent, followed by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) at 38 percent, the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) agency at 22 percent and the FBI at only 17 percent.
One reason for the continuing high percentages of immigration referrals resulting in prosecutions, according to TRAC, is “not only are these cases generally simpler to prosecute than many other kinds of federal offenses, but federal prosecutors have had the ability to appoint special assistant U.S. attorneys (actual CBP personnel) to handle many cases, so they added little to their regular attorneys workloads.”
Earlier this year, TRAC pointed out that the decrease in illegal crossings of the U.S. border with Mexico partially accounted for the decrease in CBP referrals.
But “while ICE waited until March 18 to announce it would halt arrests during the pandemic except for those necessary to ‘maintain public safety and national security,’ actual declines in ICE’s referrals appear to have begun in early March. In contrast, declines in criminal referrals from CBP waited until mid-March to appear.”
TRAC said “historically, the FBI has usually had the smallest proportion of its referrals result in criminal prosecutions, but the relative drop for April was also the largest among investigative agencies.”
Regarding the overall impact of CCP Virus on federal prosecutions, Ohio State University Law Professor Douglas Berman said May 20 that “it will be many months (maybe even years) before we can take full stock of COVID shock.”
Contact Mark Tapscott at Mark.Tapscott@epochtimes.nyc

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Senate confirms Anderson, Mercado to defense policy jobs

WASHINGTON — The Senate has filled two empty seats at the Pentagon in the last 24 hours.

On Tuesday, the Senate voted 75-15 to approve Victor Mercado to be assistant secretary of defense for strategy, plans and capabilities. That was followed by a Wednesday vote, 78-17, to confirm James Anderson — currently confirmed for the role Mercado will take over — to be deputy undersecretary of defense for policy.

Mercado retired as a rear admiral after 35 years in the Navy in late 2018, becoming deputy assistant secretary of defense for plans and posture a few months later.

Anderson has been in the assistant secretary role since August 2018 but performing as deputy undersecretary of defense for policy since David Trachtenberg retired in July. His profile was raised again Feb. 19, when John Rood, the undersecretary for policy, was forced out, at which point Anderson began acting in that role.

With the confirmations, there are now 17 senate-confirmable seats open at the Pentagon. Thirteen of those spots have no announced nominee, including the full undersecretary of policy — a role Anderson is likely to continue to fill.

Still awaiting a vote from the Senate Armed Services Committee are Louis Bremer to be assistant defense secretary for special operations and low-intensity conflict; John Whitley to be director of the Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office; Shon Manasco to be undersecretary of the Air Force; Jason Abend to be the Defense Department’s inspector general; and Michele Pearce to be general counsel of the Army.

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Watchdog discovers problems with Navy jammer

Congress’ watchdog agency, the Government Accountability Office, found that the Navy has yet to fully demonstrate critical technologies in the mid-band portion of the service’s future airborne electronic jamming system.In its annual report on defense acquisitions, the GAO pointed to technology maturity, design stability and software and cybersecurity problems with the Next Generation Jammer-mid band pod.

The Navy’s plan to replace the ALQ-99 jamming pod has been broken up into three pods covering three portions of the electromagnetic spectrum: mid, low and high.

The pods will be outfitted to EA-18G Growlers. The Navy awarded the mid band pod to Raytheon in 2016. Bids are out for the low band pod. The timeline for high band is unclear at this time.
The GAO found that the mid band program had yet to fully demonstrate the maturity of its critical technologies or stability of its design, which is inconsistent with best practices.
“Until the program fully matures its critical technologies – by demonstrating each in a final form, fit, and function within a realistic environment – the program’s design faces risk of change,” GAO said.

However, the program plans to demonstrate this technology ahead of its planned production decision in September. That milestone is for low rate initial production contract.

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Despite entering system development in April 2016 with seven critical technologies and ground testing of the pod beginning in November 2019, the program office didn’t plan to have these critical technologies fully mature, integrated and flight tested until March.
GAO conducted its review in January.
A news release from Naval Air Systems Command in mid-March said the mid band pod completed a portion of developmental testing and that the pod was expected to enter flight testing this spring.
GAO also noted that in April 2017, the program discovered design deficiencies with the pod’s structure at critical design review. Those problems contributed to a one-year schedule delay and a more than $400 million increase in development cost.

According to DoD budget documents released in February, the Navy planed to spend $176.6 million in procurement dollars and $477.6 million in research and development dollars for fiscal year 2021 for the mid band program.
GAO reported issues with the mid band pod’s software development, citing program officials identifying it a risk because the software effort was more difficult than expected. Those officials noted it has been difficult to find and hire government and contractor staff with necessary expertise to perform the work on time.
Moreover, since the pod is dependent upon the Growler’s software, which have evolved, the program has had to evolve in kind.
An evaluation for cybersecurity vulnerabilities was planned to be completed in April, the report said. NAVAIR told GAO that it plans to deliver a single software product to the fleet, though, that process takes 13 months to develop.

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Walmart Says It Will Lock up Guns, Ammunition at Some Stores

Walmart, one of the largest gun retailers in the United States, confirmed that it will remove firearms and ammunition from sales floors as nationwide protests continue over the death of George Floyd.
“We have temporarily removed firearms and ammunition from the sales floor in some stores out of an abundance of caution,” the nation’s largest retailer wrote in a statement Wednesday. “Those items are available for purchase, but are being stored in a secure room.”
Walmart, which operates 4,700 stores in the country, didn’t say how many stores would be affected by the new policy. The company doesn’t sell firearms in a number of major urban markets due to looting and riots sparked by Floyd’s death.
Walmart, Target, CVS, and Apple temporarily closed or limited hours at a number of locations for safety reasons after they were looted or vandalized.
The Benton, Arkansas-based chain stopped selling handgun and certain types of rifle ammunition, while requesting that people not openly carry firearms in stores. It also ended the sale of handguns in Alaska.
In major cities, thousands of people have gathered to protest Floyd’s death after video footage showed him struggling to breathe as a Minneapolis police officer pinned him on the ground with his knee on his neck. In a number of cases, the protests have turned violent, with rioters vandalizing stores and small businesses, looting, arson, and shootings.
On Sunday, President Donald Trump said the United States would declare the far-left militant group Antifa a terrorist organization in the wake of the riots.
Many mayors have imposed citywide curfews, which in some cases, have been flaunted by demonstrators. In New York, high-end retailers such as Chanel, Coach, and Sephora were looted with windows smashed.

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University Asks Professors to Accommodate Black Students in Finals, Citing George Floyd Protests

The University of Washington (UW) is encouraging professors to give special treatment for black students in grading their finals because they are “too busy fighting for their rights to sit down and study.”
Unimpressed by the university’s initial response towards the nationwide upheaval sparked by George Floyd’s death, the UW community started an online petition calling for changes to black students’ final grading policies. By the time of this publication, the petition titled “Give Black Students Accommodation For Finals!” has generated over 27,000 supporting signatures towards its new goal of 35,000.
“Give Black students a break!” reads the petition. “We are already DISPROPORTIONATELY impacted by this pandemic in terms of health care access and financial hardship. Now add state-sanctioned violence, how do you expect us to enter finals in this headspace?!”
“We are busy fighting for our rights and for the rights of future black children and students to sit down and study,” it continued. “The least UW could do is demand professors to accommodate us during this time.”
Answering the students’ demand, four of UW’s top officials, led by President Ana Mari Cauce, asked instructors to be “especially responsive” to the needs of students, particularly those from the black community, and provide them with accommodations such as extra time to finish assignments or a “final examination optional” approach.
“We are asking you to consider that while we are together as a community, some are being affected more than others,” the UW officials wrote in the June 1 message, adding that black faculty who are “disproportionately affected” by current events should also reach out to administrators if they need of any accommodations, deadline extensions, or other support.
Similarly, students at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) are calling for new grading policies for their final exams, claiming that recent unrest has made them unable to focus on their schoolwork.
“Please do not force students that are paralyzed by the current events to disengage in their political environment. Please do not prioritize students’ exams over their mental and emotional health,” reads a sample letter that’s been circulating among UCSD students who wrote to university administrators for a “modification in the grading and the final exams,” preferably a universal pass.
A student who emailed the letter to school officials told student newspaper The Guardian that she has been too occupied with #BlackLivesMatter activism to prepare for her finals.
“I personally have been exhausting so much energy simply using my platform, researching, donating, having hard conversations, empathizing, and grieving to even focus on my classes and have to catch up as we speak because the past week has been excruciating,” she said.

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B-52s train with Norwegian fighters on long-range flight to Arctic

Four B-52s from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota carried out a long-range training mission that flew through the Arctic to Europe on Wednesday.The Stratofortress bombers, from the 5th Bomb Wing, trained with F-16s and F-35s from the Norwegian Air Force during the Bomber Task Force mission, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa said in a release. They flew over the Arctic Ocean and the Laptev Sea, off the northern coast of Siberia.

“The Arctic is a strategic region with growing geopolitical and global importance, and these Bomber Task Force missions demonstrate our commitment to our partners and allies and our capability to deter, assure, and defend together in an increasingly complex environment.” USAFE commander Gen. Jeff Harrigian said in the release. “The integration of our bombers across Europe and the Arctic is key to enhancing regional security.”

KC-135 tankers from the 100th Air Refueling Wing at RAF Mildenhall in England and 168th Air Refueling Wing at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska refueled the B-52s during their round-trip flight.
The Air Force has conducted multiple long-range training flights with all three types of bombers in its fleet to Europe in recent weeks, including training missions with the air forces of Poland, Ukraine, Romania, Sweden and other allied nations.

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Senate Confirms Special Watchdog for Pandemic Recovery

WASHINGTON—The Senate has confirmed a new inspector general to oversee money distributed as part of the $2 trillion economic rescue law, putting at least one watchdog in place as oversight of the money has lagged.
The Senate confirmed Brian Miller, a lawyer in the White House counsel’s office, on a 51-40 vote June 2. Democrats voted against Miller after questioning his independence from President Donald Trump, who nominated him for the post.
Responding to those concerns, Miller told the Senate Banking Committee during his confirmation hearing last month that “independence is vital” for the special inspector general for pandemic recovery. He pledged to conduct audits and investigations “with fairness and impartiality.” The post would place him in charge of overseeing a roughly $500 billion Treasury fund for businesses and localities created as part of the economic rescue law approved in March.
Republicans pointed to his previous experience as an independent watchdog. Miller has worked at the Justice Department and was inspector general for nearly a decade at the General Services Administration, which oversees thousands of federal contracts. Miller helped force out the GSA’s director during President George W. Bush’s administration, drawing criticism from the White House and Republican lawmakers.
But most Democrats weren’t convinced, with only one—Alabama Sen. Doug Jones—voting for him. Another Democratic moderate, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, said in a statement that he voted against Miller because “I believe his current role in the Office of White House Counsel and relationship with the president makes it impossible for him to remain independent as he investigates the administration’s response to the pandemic.”
As Miller assumes the post, he will be one of the sole checks on the massive pot of money as other oversight bodies set up in the law have foundered. The Pandemic Recovery Accountability Committee, a committee of inspectors general, still has no leader after Trump sidelined the original chairman, Glenn Fine, by demoting him. A bipartisan congressional commission is also rudderless as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, (D-Calif.), and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), have not yet agreed upon and appointed a chair, as the law directs them to do.
Trump has bristled at the law’s oversight provisions, suggesting in a signing statement that some of the mandates from Congress were unconstitutional and did not need to be obeyed. He has also often bristled at the work of inspector generals, firing several in recent months with little explanation.
Democrats questioned whether Miller would be able to remain neutral in that environment, especially amid concerns that some of the money has been going to larger, publicly traded companies in lieu of small businesses with the most need.
Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, the top Democrat on the banking panel, questioned at the hearing whether Miller would be able to hold the Trump administration accountable for how it administers the program and “guarantee that corporations getting taxpayer money put their workers first.″
If he is confirmed, Brown said, “I expect you to follow the letter and spirit of the law, and serve the American people—not President Trump. … You must be willing to stand up to the administration and any other bad actor and to uphold the goals of the law. Anything less is unacceptable.”
By Mary Clare Jalonick

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Historic nomination of first black service chief to move forward after lawmaker lifts secret hold

WASHINGTON — As the country is gripped by civil unrest over racial injustice and the death of George Floyd, the U.S. Senate has been poised to confirm the first black chief of a military service branch. But the nomination was being quietly delayed by one senator as leverage in a basing decision for the KC-46 aerial refueling tanker.

Sen. Dan Sullivan has lifted a legislative hold he placed on the nomination of Air Force Gen. Charles Brown, Defense News has learned. The Alaska Republican established the hold shortly after Brown’s confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee in early May, preventing his nomination from moving forward, according to three sources with knowledge of the matter.

President Donald Trump on March 2 nominated Brown, currently the commander of Pacific Air Forces, to replace Gen. Dave Goldfein as the Air Force’s top general. Brown was one of four nominees SASC reported favorably on May 19, but the only one not to receive Senate floor consideration in the days since.

The weekslong delay for Brown’s historic confirmation vote has flown under the radar amid other controversies surrounding Trump’s involvement of the military as a response to protests and violence around the country — and as the Pentagon wrestles with its own sensitivities to racial issues.

On Wednesday evening, Sullivan confirmed to Defense News that he had held up Brown’s nomination while waiting for responses to additional questions about the KC-46.

“You probably saw the confirmation hearing. I had some follow up questions on it. They got back to me now and so he’s cleared hot,” he said. “You know the nomination process, you’ve seen that I take it very seriously. The questions I asked are serious and then when we have questions for the record, they’ve got to be answered appropriately. So we’re just going through that. And we got there, so yeah he’s cleared hot.”

Sullivan is widely known as a dogged advocate for his state as a strategic hub for the U.S. military. The lawmaker has lobbied the Air Force to base the KC-46 tanker in Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska, which is under consideration as one of four candidate bases in the Asia-Pacific region.

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In a May 2 interview with Defense News, Sullivan said, “it’s a complete no brainer that it should be Alaska.”

During Brown’s hearing, Sullivan engaged Brown in a long line of questioning about whether it would be advantageous to position the KC-46 within reach of several combatant commands, near an installation with access to both a large airspace, and close to fifth generation fighter jets like the F-35 and F-22 — all characteristics of U.S. air bases in Alaska.

Brown responded in the affirmative.

“Does it make sense, on the flip side, to have OCONUS [outside the contiguous United States] KC-46s in a location that’s focused only on one combatant command and will be vulnerable soon to long-range precision weapons from our adversaries in the [U.S. Indo-Pacific Command] region?” Sullivan asked.

“Senator, it probably does not because it increases the risk to the fleet,” Brown responded.

However, Brown stopped short of committing to base KC-46s in Alaska.

On May 19, the committee voted by voice to approve a number of civilian Defense Department nominees en bloc, to include now-Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite, and a number of uniformed nominees en bloc, to include Brown.

Though Brown’s name been on the Senate’s executive calendar ever since, Brown was not among the group of 30 uniformed officers who were approved on the Senate floor on May 21 by unanimous consent.

SASC Chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said Wednesday he would know before the end of the day when Brown’s nomination would receive consideration on the Senate floor.

Senators can hold back a nominee from moving forward in the confirmation process in secret, but a formal hold must be reported to the lawmaker’s party leadership. And while holds can be overcome, it requires time consuming procedures such as filing cloture, a motion to end debate that requires 51 votes.

Usually, a senator will drop a legislative hold on a nominee after the presumptive official answers key questions or satisfies outstanding requests made by that lawmaker. However, the Air Force only announces basing decisions after going through an analytic process that takes into account factors such as cost, environmental considerations and how that location affects the ability of a platform to accomplish its mission — making it unlikely that Brown could satisfy a request from a lawmaker to base assets in a certain location.

In the months before his nomination was announced, Brown had been widely viewed among his Air Force peers as a lock on the chief of staff position due to his extensive experience commanding U.S. forces overseas.

Before being named as head of PACAF in 2018, Brown was deputy commander of U.S. Central Command for two years. From 2015 to 2016, he served as U.S. Air Forces Central Command’s combined force air component commander, where he oversaw the bombing campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, as well as operations against insurgent groups in Afghanistan.

The Air Force plans to buy a total of 179 KC-46s from Boeing. So far, the tankers have been based at McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas, Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma and Pease Air National Guard Base in New Hampshire.

Updated on 6/3/20 to add comments from Sen. Dan Sullivan.

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Unemployment Fraud Spikes Amid Surge In Claims Due to Pandemic

Federal and state authorities are warning that unemployment benefit fraud is on the rise amid record-high jobless claims filed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In a large-scale scam erupting in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, imposters are filing claims for unemployment benefits, using the names and personal information of people who have not filed claims,” said Seena Gressin, an attorney at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), in a statement on Wednesday.
Spurred by the economic fallout from pandemic-driven lockdowns, a record 40.767 million Americans have filed jobless claims since March 21. The unprecedented volume of claims gives criminals more opportunities to act and deceive.
State unemployment offices, including ones in Maine, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania, have all sounded the alarm in recent days or weeks, warning of a surge in jobless claim fraud.
“Unprecedented claim volumes are driving a dramatic increase in fraudulent unemployment claims across the country—North Dakota included,” said the state’s job service, in a statement.

People who lost their jobs wait in line to file for unemployment at an Arkansas Workforce Center in Fayetteville, Ark., on April 6, 2020. (Nick Oxford/Reuters)
North Dakota authorities said criminals committing the fraud look to many different sources to obtain victims’ personal information, including from buying social security numbers on the dark web.
“These sophisticated schemes are often hard to detect and ultimately can result in very large losses,” they warned.
The Maine Department of Labor said in a May 27 release it had teamed up with local law enforcement to investigate such fraud after receiving around 1,000 reports of potential unemployment imposter fraud. The agency said that, as of the date of publication of the release, it had identified and cancelled around 2,200 unemployment claims that it found to be fraudulent.
“While fraud is not new or unique, organized criminals across the nation are now targeting unemployment programs expanded during the pandemic in unprecedented ways,” Commissioner of the Maine Department of Labor, Laura Fortman, said in the release.
The FTC said people often find out about the fraudulent claims made in their name when the receive a notification from their state unemployment office or their workplace that they allegedly applied for benefits.
When this happens, it means someone is almost certainly exploiting the victim’s confidential personal information, including Social Security number, Gressin said.
Further, some people fall prey to what’s known as a “money mule scam,” which may expose them to legal liability. This is a scenario in which the fraudulently obtained unemployment benefits aren’t sent to the perpetrator’s account, but to the victim’s. Criminals will then contact the victim to try and get them to transfer some or all of the money.
“Scammers may try to use you to move stolen money. If you help them, you could be what law enforcement calls a money mule,” said Lisa Weintraub Schifferle, an FTC  attorney, in an earlier statement.
She warned that giving a scammer bank account information raises the risk that they may misuse it.
“You could even get into legal trouble for helping a scammer move stolen money,” she warned.
People who suddenly receive benefit money that they never applied for should report the incident to the state unemployment agency, the FCT said.
Follow Tom on Twitter: @OZImekTOM

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US Should Have a ‘Couple Hundred Million’ Doses of a COVID-19 Vaccine by the Start of 2021, Fauci Says

The United States should have 100 million doses of one candidate CCP virus vaccine by the end of the year, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House CCP virus Task Force, said on June 2.
“Then, by the beginning of 2021, we hope to have a couple hundred million doses,” Fauci said during a live Q&A with the Journal of the American Medical Association.
However, it’s still not clear whether the vaccine will be effective against the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
Fauci said the first vaccine candidate, made by biotech company Moderna in partnership with NIAID, should go into a final stage of trials in volunteers, known as Phase 3, by mid-summer. Preparations at national and international sites are already underway, he said.
“The real business end of this all will be the Phase 3 that starts in the first week of July, hopefully,” Fauci said. “We want to get as many datapoints as we can.”

A pharmacist gives Jennifer Haller (L) the first shot in the first-stage safety study clinical trial of a potential vaccine for COVID-19, at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle, on March 16, 2020. (Ted S. Warren/AP Photo)
Phase 3 will involve about 30,000 people. The vaccine will be tested in people ages 18 to 55, as well as in the elderly and in people who have underlying health conditions.
“It’s going to be the entire spectrum,” Fauci said.
Fauci said Phase 2 of the trial started a few days ago. A few hundred volunteers will be involved in that part of the trial.
The plan is to manufacture doses of the vaccine even before it is clear whether it will work, making close to 100 million doses by November or December, Fauci said. If it does work, then it can be deployed quickly.
Scientists should have enough data by November or December to determine if the vaccine works, Fauci said.
The University of Oxford and AstraZeneca vaccine trial underway in the UK will follow a similar schedule. A handful of other vaccine studies should start just one to two months after that, he said.
“I’m cautiously optimistic that with the multiple candidates we have with different platforms, that we are going to have a vaccine that will make it deployable,” Fauci said. He is optimistic, he said, because, while the number of deaths from COVID-19 are “profound,” largely people recover from this disease. Recovery shows that there is an immune response that can clear the CCP virus.

A doctor looks at protein samples at Novavax labs in Rockville, Md., one of the labs developing a vaccine for the COVID-19, on March 20, 2020. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)
“Which tells us, that if the body is capable of making an immune response to clear the virus of natural infection, that’s a pretty good proof of concept,” Fauci said. “Having said that, there is never a guarantee.”
Indeed, even with 10 vaccines already in clinical trials and more than 120 more in development, many experts are skeptical that a vaccine will be available early next year. Key trial phases can be delayed, and ultimately, the vaccines being tested now may not protect people against the CCP  virus. Millions of vaccine doses manufactured ahead of time could be thrown out.
Fauci noted he’s also concerned about what the durability of the immune response will be. People develop antibodies to fight common colds caused by other strains of CCP virus, but that protection generally only lasts about a year. That might mean people would need a fresh vaccine every year, as is the case with influenza.
Fauci said there is also a “major push” underway on programs to develop monoclonal antibodies, convalescent plasma, and hyperimmune globulin. These are all treatments that employ antibodies, like vaccines do, but deliver them directly, provide more temporary protection, and can also potentially treat COVID-19 symptoms.
Fauci said he would like to see treatments developed using monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma that would protect the elderly and those who are at risk for the worst symptoms of COVID-19.
“That’s a very, very high priority,” Fauci said.
The CNN Wire and Epoch Times staff contributed to this report.

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Derek Chauvin’s Murder Charge Upgraded, 3 Fellow Cops Charged: Senator

The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office will announce upgraded charges against Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis officer who knelt on George Floyd’s neck, and is expected to add new charges to three other officers who were on the scene.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) wrote that “Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison is increasing charges against Derek Chauvin to 2nd degree in George Floyd’s murder and also charging other 3 officers. This is another important step for justice.”
Following Floyd’s death, the four officers were fired from the police force and Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder. However, the charges did little to quell sometimes violent protests, rioting, arson incidents, and looting across U.S. cities over the past week.
Officers Thomas Lane and J.A. Keung, who helped restrain Floyd, and Tou Thao, another officer who stood nearby, were not charged initially.
County and private autopsies determined that Floyd died by homicide. After firing the officers, Minneapolis Police chief Medaria Arradondo said they were complicit in the man’s death, while Floyd’s family and protesters called on them to be arrested and convicted.

Protesters on the Manhattan Bridge in New York, N.Y. on June 2, 2020. (Scott Heins/Getty Images)
An attorney for Floyd’s family, Benjamin Crump, wrote on Twitter that the family is grateful for the new charges.
“FAMILY REACTION: This is a bittersweet moment. We are deeply gratified that (Ellison) took decisive action, arresting & charging ALL the officers involved in #GeorgeFloyd’s death & upgrading the charge against Derek Chauvin to felony second-degree murder,” he wrote.
Under Minnesota law, second-degree murder is defined as when a person causes the death of another person with intent without premeditation.
Ellison was appointed by Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz to take over the case on Sunday, and at the time, he said he expected the charges to be upgraded.
“We are moving as expeditiously, quickly, and effectively as we can,” he told reporters. “But I need to protect this prosecution. I am not going to create a situation where somebody can say this was a rush to judgment.”
Attorney Earl Gray, who represents Lane, told The Associated Press that the report “is accurate” before ending the call. Before news of the upgraded charges, an attorney for Chauvin said he was not making any statements at this time. Attorneys for Thao and Kueng did not return messages seeking comment on the charges.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Missouri Attorney General Says All St. Louis Looters, Rioters Were Released

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt said that St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner has not charged any people who were arrested for rioting, looting, and vandalism during recent protests over the death of George Floyd.
“To see that kind of level of violence and rioting that went on, police officers being shot and shot at, a retired police captain being murdered, people throwing rocks and gasoline and frozen water bottles at police officers, firefighters being assaulted and blocked from doing their job, businesses that have served the community for years being burned to the ground, it’s unfathomable that every single person arrested that night has been released,” he said in a statement, according to KSDK.
St. Louis Police Chief John Hayden said that 25 people were arrested during the unrest between Monday night and Tuesday, including 25 who were arrested during riots on Monday night and Tuesday morning where four officers were shot, KMOV reported. A retired police captain, David Dorn, was also allegedly shot and killed by a looter while he was protecting a pawn shop, according to officials.
The police department said that a person has to be released after 24 hours if they were not charged with a crime. Schmitt’s office told the station that Gardner’s office has as long as three years to charge someone.
“There is the chance that she could issue them, but they could riot and loot tonight even if she charges them later because they were released,” spokesman Chris Nuelle said, adding that releasing them sends the wrong message to criminals.

St. Louis City Bike Patrol Officers mobilize as protesters demonstrate against police brutality and the death of George Floyd through downtown St. Louis in St Louis, Mo.. on June 1, 2020. (Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)
“It emboldens them,” he said. “There have to be consequences to that and we’re just not seeing that from the local prosecutor.”
The release of those who were arrested is “a stunning development,” Schmitt wrote on Twitter, laying the blame at the feet of Gardner.
Gardner, meanwhile, said in a news conference Tuesday that she would prosecute individuals who were involved in rioting.
“What happened last night was not about nonviolent protests, what happened was a small group of individuals chose to benefit off of the pain and suffering of our community and use it as excuse to … engage in senseless violence,” she remarked. “I will continue to uphold the rights to peacefully protest, but I want to be clear, I will use the full power of the law and my officer (sic) to prosecute and hold accountable anyone who murders police officers, shoots at police offices or harms anyone in my community.
Gardner’s office told KMOV4 all but two of the cases went to municipal courts.

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Antifa: The Network of Violent Revolutionaries Behind Much of Today’s Rioting

News Analysis
With cities under brutal, sustained assault by seemingly well-organized rioters from coast to coast, President Donald Trump tried to reassure the nation when he recently vowed to designate Antifa as a terrorist organization.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security had already taken the first step in 2016 when it labeled Antifa’s activities “domestic terrorist violence,” as Politico reported.
Antifa is in the news nowadays because it, along with radical organizations such as Democratic Socialists of America and the various groups falling under the Black Lives Matter umbrella, seized on a recent example of police brutality that sickened Americans of all political and ideological stripes.
The catalyst for action was the May 25 death of George Floyd, a black man who died after then-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into the suspect’s neck for almost 9 minutes. Video of the incident quickly went viral and became a recruiting tool for left-wing agitators.
In a major address to the American people on June 1, Trump highlighted Antifa’s role in the violence that has plagued the nation since Floyd’s death.
“Our nation has been gripped by professional anarchists, violent mobs, arsonists, looters, criminals, rioters, Antifa, and others,” he said.
“All Americans were rightly sickened and revolted by the brutal death of George Floyd. … But we cannot allow the righteous cries and peaceful protesters to be drowned out by an angry mob.”
The events that sparked civil unrest “are not acts of peaceful protest,” Trump said.
“These are acts of domestic terror. The destruction of innocent life and the spilling of innocent blood is an offense to humanity and a crime against God.”
Revolutionary Violence
Antifa is a truncated form of anti-fascist.
Antifa uses heavy-handed tactics and is notorious for physically assaulting conservatives, Republicans, and those who identify with the so-called alt-right. These violent modern-day agitators trace their roots to Weimar Germany, where their forerunners assaulted Nazi brownshirts and emulated their tactic of using force to silence political rivals. They typically smear their victims as fascists, Nazis, and racists.
According to Germany’s domestic intelligence service, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), when Antifa members speak of “fascism,” they don’t mean actual fascism: they mean capitalism.
Former German Antifa member Bernd Langer, confirmed this, saying communists in Germany use the phrase “anti-fascism” to mean “anti-capitalism.” These labels are “battle concepts” that are part of a “political vocabulary.”
Law-and-order advocates have long sought a government crackdown on Antifa, which has traditionally been thought of as a leaderless, decentralized coalition of far-left groups, the component parts of which are themselves often organized on an ad hoc basis.
“Today’s Antifa will still claim to be anarchists, but in fact have morphed into totalitarian communists,” radicalism expert Trevor Loudon said in “America Under Siege: Antifa,” a 2017 documentary film executive-produced by this writer.
Not surprisingly, Antifa sympathizer and academic Mark Bray, author of “Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook,” has a more nuanced, positive view of Antifa.
“Some antifa groups are more Marxist while others are more anarchist or antiauthoritarian,” he writes in his book. “A range of tendencies exist within that broader strategic consensus … Some antifa focus on building popular community power and inoculating society to fascism through promoting their leftist political vision.”
Antifa is more properly viewed as a revolutionary militia movement, many of whose constituent groups aspire to forcibly overthrow the United States government. At rallies they chant: “No borders, no wall, no USA at all.” Some Antifa activists have specific ideas about what might replace it; others do not and are more nihilistic and short-term in their thinking.
As journalist Jack Posobiec, who was assaulted by an Antifa member, told The Epoch Times last year, Antifa is “part of the toxic ideology that we’ve seen go across the world.”
Soviet Red Army founder Leon Trotsky “basically said Antifa is going to be the militant arm, the international arm of communism, Posobiec said. “This was set up by the Soviet Union to push and foment communism in other countries.”
Evidence of Organization
Antifa behavior certainly doesn’t resemble traditional political activism. It has more of a militant, even military, feel to it.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said, “a number of different groups are involved in these whether it’s Antifa or it’s others, frankly.” The groups seem organized and use tactics not normally seen at peaceful protests, he said without elaborating, AP reports.
There are reports of outsiders being shipped in to cause trouble in various cities now experiencing riots.
WTVR reports that in Richmond, Virginia, police chief Will Smith said, “We have people from across the country who have traveled many states to be here. We know that this is an organized effort.”
“We do have anti-fascists, we have some anarchists, to a large degree, but there’s people from outside of this state and outside of this area that we know that are involved and we’re doing our best to identify them and backtracking what their affiliations are,” Smith said.
Events in riot-torn cities suggest there is organization behind the chaos, with Antifa a likely organizer.
All over the country, mysterious palettes of bricks have been found in recent days in areas where there has been rioting, Fox News reports.
For example, the Kansas City police department tweeted May 31 that “stashes of bricks and rocks” have been found “to be used during a riot.”
In Minneapolis, flammable materials have been found in neighborhoods and in cars stopped by police, local media reported.
John Harrington, Minnesota public safety commissioner, said police have been finding stolen cars with license plates removed that have been used to carry the flammable materials, as well as looted goods and weapons.
“The fact that we’ve seen so many of them in so many places now makes us believe that this is part of that pattern that shows that this in fact an organized activity and not some random act of rage,” he said.
One individual pulled over in Bloomington while driving a plate-less tried to “douse the car itself and set it on fire,” which is “not something you see on most traffic stops,” Harrington said.
Tactics
The sartorial tactic of dressing entirely in black, including covering one’s face, is popular in Antifa circles. It is known as the “black bloc” style of activism or direct-action protest. The thinking is that this manner of dress creates a sense of group solidarity, in addition to making criminal prosecution difficult.
The approach comes from Antifa in Germany, Bray writes in his book.
Activists “dressed in black with their faces covered by motorcycle helmets, balaclavas, or other masks to create a uniform, anonymous mass of revolutionaries prepared to carry out militant actions, sometimes involving weapons such as flagpoles, clubs, projectiles, and Molotov cocktails.”
Journalist Andy Ngo, like Posobiec, has been assaulted by Antifa.
The assault took place after, Portland, Oregon-based Rose City Antifa, supposedly the oldest Antifa group in the United States, identified him as a supposed right-wing sympathizer, Fox News reports.
Antifa members “all want radical change, and they don’t really see how easy and quickly you could destroy what’s taken centuries to build up,” said Ngo, whose parents escaped communist Vietnam in the 1970s.
Antifa are “‘horizontally’ organized, meaning, they don’t have figureheads or leaders. It’s part of their ideology that there should be no authority or state. Mistake to then assume this means they have no organization. It’s a different type of organizing media isn’t used to[,]” Ngo tweeted June 1.
“Antifa are organized in multiple units. Scouts monitor perimeter of an area & provide live audio/text updates. There are street medics, who are trained to get injured comrades out. And there are those who carry out violence w/weapons & firebombs. They use [encrypted smartphone app] Signal to communicate.”
Antifa does more than attack people and institutions, according to Bray.
Antifa “conduct research … online, in person, and sometimes infiltration; they dox them, push cultural milieux to disown them, pressure bosses to fire them, and demand that venues cancel their shows, conferences, and meetings … But it is also true that some of them punch Nazis in the face and don’t apologize for it,” Bray writes.
New Prominence
Although Antifa long antedates the Trump administration, it has gained new prominence in the United States in the post-Obama era. Its members did what they could to disrupt the inauguration of President Trump in January 2017, damaging property and setting fires in the nation’s capital, and they have been generating mayhem across the country ever since.
As Peter Beinart observed in Atlantic magazine in 2017, Antifa is responsible for “a level of sustained political street warfare not seen in the U.S. since the 1960s.”
“In the United States, most [Antifa groups] have been anarchist or antiauthoritarian since the emergence of modern antifa under the name Anti-Racist Action (ARA) in the late eighties,” author Bray writes.
The implication is that the revolutionary activists eventually decided that anti-fascism was more marketable than anti-racism, and the movement rebranded itself in this country as Antifa.
Although true textbook fascists who adhere to the belief systems of a Benito Mussolini, Adolph Hitler, or Francisco Franco are fairly hard to find in today’s America, Antifa manages to locate them—by inventing them.
As already noted, it does this by operating under its own peculiar working definition of fascism, labeling mainstream conservatives fascists and lumping them in with white-supremacists and neo-Nazis. All police officers are deemed enemy fascists because, according to the Antifa way of thinking, they are enforcing the laws of America’s supposedly evil capitalist system, which they say is actually a fascist system.
Funding
Determining who funds Antifa is difficult, but some things are known.
Left-wing billionaire George Soros has ties to Antifa through a group called the Alliance for Global Justice (AfGJ). Soros’s philanthropy, known at the time as the Open Society Institute, has donated $100,000 to AfGJ since 2004.
AfGJ, in turn, funneled $50,000 to Refuse Fascism, an unincorporated Antifa group.
Refuse Fascism was formed soon after Donald Trump’s unexpected victory over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. The group summed up its mission on its website: “It’s Fascism: Drive Out the Trump/Pence Regime!”
Refuse Fascism participated in rioting on Feb. 1, 2017, at the University of California, Berkeley, as part of what is called a “deplatforming” action. The objective, which was achieved, was to prevent controversial conservative writer Milo Yiannopoulos from delivering a speech on campus. The rioting caused more than $500,000 in damage.
It could be that funding is less important to Antifa than to traditional political movements.
Maybe generating chaos in the service of revolutionary change is less expensive than some think.

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Son of Retired Police Officer Killed in St. Louis Looting Speaks Out

The son of a retired St. Louis police captain who was killed during looting that was sparked by the death of a Minneapolis man sent a message to the suspect.
David Dorn, 77, was shot and killed as looters broke into Lee’s Pawn Shop and Jewelry. The incident was reportedly streamed via Facebook Live.
“The person who pulled the trigger, my message to them would just simply be, just step back from what you’re doing. Know the real reason that you are protesting. Let’s do it in a positive manner,” his son, Brian Powell, told Fox2Now on Wednesday. “We don’t have to go out and loot and do all the other things.”
His brother informed Powell at 4 a.m. on the day of their father’s death. The suspect who is believed to be responsible in Dorn’s death was captured on Wednesday, said police.

Our highest respect to the family of David Dorn, a Great Police Captain from St. Louis, who was viciously shot and killed by despicable looters last night. We honor our police officers, perhaps more than ever before. Thank you! pic.twitter.com/0ouUpoJEQ4
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 3, 2020

“They called him ‘Cap.’ That was the Cap. That was the Cap, everybody knows that was him,” Powell said of his father, who had worked for decades in the St. Louis Police Department.
“He couldn’t stay retired. My dad is that kind of person—he believed in black and blue,” he added. “Police work ran through his veins.”
Powell noted that Dorn would have shown empathy toward his assailant if he were alive.
“My dad, he is a forgiving soul. So he would have forgiven that person and try to talk to them because he was real big on trying to talk to youth and mentoring young people as well,” he said. “He was trying to get them on the straight and narrow and everything.”
The Ethical Society of Police, a St. Louis black officers fraternal organization, wrote on Twitter that Dorn was “the type of brother that would’ve given his life to save them if he had to.”
President Donald Trump also weighed in on his killing, saying that “we honor our police officers, perhaps more than ever before.”
A local official said he apparently witnessed Dorn’s death on Facebook.
“I just seen a man die on live man! Smh,” state Rep. Rasheen Aldridge said on Facebook, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Very traumatized right now,” he told the news outlet.
Dorn’s wife told the paper that her husband was a friend of the pawn shop’s owner and worked for him.

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US Labor Market Appears to Stabilize as Private Payrolls Fall Less Than Expected

WASHINGTON—U.S. private payrolls fell less than expected in May, suggesting layoffs were abating as businesses reopen, though the overall economy’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic will be slow.
The ADP National Employment Report on  June 3 showed private employers laid off another 2.76 million workers last month after a record 19.557 million in April. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast private payrolls dropping by 9 million in May.
A staggering 25 million private jobs were lost over the past three months. The ADP report is jointly developed with Moody’s Analytics.
“The COVID-19 recession is over, barring a second wave of infections or policy error,” Mark Zandi, Moody’s Analytics chief economist told reporters. “But recovery will be a slog until there is a vaccine.”

A worker sanitizes slot machines in a high-limit room for slots at Bellagio Resort & Casino as the Las Vegas Strip property, which has been closed since March 17 in response to the CCP virus pandemic, prepares to reopen in Las Vegas, Nev., on June 1, 2020. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Zandi said there was no evidence yet the government’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was helping the labor market. The PPP, part of a historic fiscal package worth nearly $3 trillion, offers businesses loans that can be partially forgiven if they are used for employee pay.
Stocks on Wall Street opened higher as investors remained optimistic about an economic rebound despite growing social unrest. The dollar slipped against a basket of currencies. U.S. Treasury prices fell.
Though the worst of job losses is probably behind, economists estimate that roughly one in four workers who were laid off or furloughed during the near shutdown of the country in mid-March to control the spread of COVID-19 were unlikely to be rehired. Many bankruptcies are anticipated.
The ADP report was released ahead of the government’s more comprehensive employment report for May scheduled for release on Friday. Though it has a poor record predicting the private payrolls component of the government’s employment report because of methodology differences, it mirrors other labor market indicators in suggesting that layoffs are ebbing.
“The ADP report isn’t always a reliable predictor of the government data, but it suggests that the pace of job loss moderated noticeably between April and May, even though it remained substantial relative to pre-COVID-19 norms,” said Daniel Silver, an economist at JPMorgan in New York.

People work at a jewelry store at the Americana Mall in Manhasset, N.Y., on May 27, 2020. (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
“This is a message broadly consistent with some other related signals, and the labor market likely has benefited from the easing of restrictions on activity in many places.”
According to a Reuters survey of economists, nonfarm payrolls probably declined by 8 million last month after plummeting by a record 20.537 million in April.
The unemployment rate is forecast rocketing to 19.8 percent, a post-World War Two high, from 14.7 percent in April.
Recessions in the United States are called by the National Bureau of Economic Research, which does not define a recession as two consecutive quarters of decline in real gross domestic product, as is the rule of thumb in many countries. Instead, the NBER looks for a drop in economic activity, spread across the economy and lasting more than a few months. Economists believe the economy slipped into recession in March.
The ADP report showed job losses across all sectors in May, though within the service-providing sector, administrative services, which include temporary help, and educational services showed employment gains.
By Lucia Mutikani

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Flynn Case: In a Sign of Haste, Appeals Court Sets Hearing in 10 Days

A Federal appeals court has set a tight schedule for a hearing in the case of former Trump adviser Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who’s accusing a lower level judge of undue delay in dismissing his case.
The District of Columbia ordered on June 2 an oral argument in 10 days, when it will hear from Flynn’s lawyers, the Department of Justice (DOJ), and from a lawyer for District Judge Emmet Sullivan on whether the judge does or doesn’t have the authority to delay ruling on the DOJ’s motion to dismiss the case.
The 10 day notice is tighter than it may seem, commented appellate attorney John Reeves, former assistant attorney general of Missouri, in a June 2 series of tweets.
“For non-lawyers, a ten day notice for oral argument may seem like a long time, but it isn’t. It’s an increidibly [sic] short amount of time,” he said, noting that the usual time would be 30 days or more.
“The setting of oral argument shows that the DC Circuit is gravely concerned about this matter, and wants to hear further from all sides,” he said. “This will give the DC Circuit the opportunity to pepper Sullivan’s lawyer with as many questions as they want about the arguments raised in her brief. They can interrupt her as much as they want.”
Flynn, a former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency during the Obama administration and former national security adviser to President Donald Trump, pleaded guilty in 2017 to one count of lying during an FBI interview. In January, he disavowed the plea and asked the court to allow him to withdraw it.
The DOJ moved to drop Flynn’s case on May 7, saying the FBI interview wasn’t based on a properly predicated investigation and “seems to have been undertaken only to elicit those very false statements and thereby criminalize Mr. Flynn.”
Sullivan has so far refused to affirm the dismissal and has instead laid out a schedule that would prolong the case for possibly months. He’s appointed former federal Judge John Gleeson as an amicus curiae (friend of the court) “to present arguments in opposition to the government’s Motion to Dismiss,” as well as to “address” whether the court should make the defense explain why “Flynn should not be held in criminal contempt for perjury.”
He’s also signaled he may allow more amici to join the case.
Flynn’s lawyers, led by former federal prosecutor Sidney Powell, on May 19 filed a petition for a writ of mandamus—a request to the higher court to order Sullivan to accept the case dismissal, cancel the Gleeson appointment, and assign the case to another judge.
The appeals court gave Sullivan 10 days to respond, upon which he hired highly-connected D.C. attorney Beth Wilkinson to do so for him.
Wilkinson has argued that the DOJ motion to dismiss is so unusual, the judge needs more information to evaluate it.
Her argument, however, doesn’t address the substance of the documents the DOJ cited as a reason for dismissing the case.
The documents show that top FBI officials intervened to keep the Flynn investigation open, despite the fact that the D.C. field office already proceeded to close it. The probe was supposed to determine whether Flynn was cooperating with Russia on something illegal or threatening national security. It not only found no evidence of that, but uncovered no actual “derogatory” information on Flynn, a military intelligence veteran of top-notch credentials. The FBI top brass kept the case open on a shaky legal theory that Flynn could have trespassed on a virtually never-enforced 18th century law called Logan Act, even though the DOJ made clear to them that such charges wouldn’t fly.
The documents were revealed by Jeffrey Jensen, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri, who was directed in January by Attorney General William Barr to perform a review of the case.
Upon the discovery, Jensen recommended dismissing the case. The DOJ stated it could no longer prove beyond reasonable doubt that what Flynn said during the interview was material to a properly predicated investigation.
Flynn and the DOJ have told the appeals court that Sullivan doesn’t have the authority to delay accepting the dismissal in this case.
“Because this case involves ‘the prosecution’s constitutionally rooted exercise of charging discretion,’ it is a ‘usurpation of judicial power’ to second-guess it,’” the DOJ told the court.
Follow Petr on Twitter: @petrsvab

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Most Small Businesses Are Now Open But Many Fear Second-Wave Shutdowns: Poll

A new poll shows that most small businesses in the United States are open in some capacity, though nearly two-thirds are worried about potential closures due to a second wave of COVID-19.
Nearly eight in ten small businesses (79 percent) are either fully (41 percent) or partially (38 percent) open, according to a Small Business Coronavirus Impact Poll taken between May 21–27 and jointly released on June 3 by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and MetLife (pdf).
Small businesses in the South were significantly more likely to report being fully open than in other regions, with 51 percent in the South compared to 31-39 percent in other regions.
“Businesses across the country are beginning to reopen but see a long road ahead,” said Tom Sullivan, vice president of small business policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in a statement.

A pedestrian wears his face mask while walking past a closed Nickel Diner in Los Angeles, Calif., on May 7, 2020. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)
Overall, while more businesses than in previous months said it would take longer for the business climate to return to normal, fewer businesses said they were “very concerned” about the impact of the pandemic and more said they have seen an improvement in cash flow and future earnings.
“While we know small businesses are still facing real challenges, it is encouraging that some optimism has been seen, including improved comfort with cash flow and expectations for future revenue,” said Jessica Moser, senior vice president, Small and Specialty Business at MetLife. “As more small businesses begin to re-open, we hope this trend continues.”
Still, 66 percent of small businesses polled said they are concerned about having to close again, or remain closed, in the event of a second wave of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
Anxiety about second-wave closures was more pronounced in the West (77 percent) and Northeast (74 percent) than in the Midwest (62 percent) and South (55 percent).
According to the poll, 82 percent of small businesses indicated they were concerned about the impact of the pandemic, which is roughly in line with previous months. In a sign of growing optimism, however, the number of respondents who said they were “very concerned” about the impact of the outbreak on their business dropped by 10 percentage points compared to a month ago and by 15 percentage points from two months ago, and stood at 43 percent in the recent poll.

A hairstylist cuts a customer’s hair at The Parlor in Napa, Calif., on May 27, 2020. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Yet more businesses than in previous months said they believe the pandemic-related disruption will persist before making a rebound, with 55 percent saying they expect it will take six months to a year before the business climate returns to normal in the United States. This is up from previous polls, where 50 percent last month and 46 percent two months ago saying they believed the economic overhang would linger for six months to a year.
Sullivan called for more relief for America’s small businesses.
“There is still a need for Congress to pass targeted, temporary, and timely assistance for small businesses,” he said.
As more businesses reopen, more than six in ten (62 percent) said they are concerned about the risks the virus poses to their employees and customers.
“Small business owners are cautiously optimistic about opening their doors again. But they remain concerned on what the post-COVID world looks like and how they can successfully reopen, while ensuring the safety for their employees and customers,” said Suzanne Clark, president, U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Business owners across America need clear guidance at the federal, state, and local level on how to reopen their businesses safely and sustainably.”
The biggest worries over the next several months, as expressed by respondents to the survey, were: financial hardships due to prolonged closures (71 percent), low business demand (67 percent), and closures related to a second wave (66 percent).
Negative sentiments towards both the overall national economy and local economies are softening, the poll showed, and most businesses that cut staff expect to rehire them.
These attitudes were reinforced by payroll data released on Wednesday, which showed signs of stabilization in the domestic labor market after the ADP National Employment Report said private employers laid off another 2.76 million workers, lesser than an expected 9 million job losses.
“The COVID-19 recession is over, barring a second wave of infections or policy error,” Mark Zandi, Moody’s Analytics chief economist told reporters. “But recovery will be a slog until there is a vaccine.”
The ADP report was released ahead of the government’s more comprehensive employment report for May scheduled for release on Friday.
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Air Force could dole out nearly $27 billion in first round of ABMS contracts

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect confirmation from the Air Force that each vendor has received an individual contract worth up to $950 million.The Air Force will dole out up to $26.6 billion over the next five years to develop and enable its Joint All Domain Command and Control concept, according to the first round of contracts awarded May 29.

In a clarifying statement to Defense News, the Air Force explained that 28 vendors have each been awarded an indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract worth up to $950 million to develop and deliver technologies for JADC2. Each contract includes a minimum order guarantee of $1,000. An Air Force representative had initially told C4ISRNET that a total of $950 million would be split between the 28 companies.
In a further statement to C4ISRNET, an Air Force spokesperson said it was not accurate to say the Air Force would spend $27 billion through these contracts because “the Air Force has requested $3.3B for ABMS over five years” in the president’s fiscal year 2021 budget request.
“Our spending is limited by the funding appropriated in the President’s budget not on the cumulative ceiling of a contract,” said the Air Force spokesperson.
JADC2 is a new data architecture being pushed primarily by the Air Force for multidomain operations across the service branches. Under JADC2, the Department of Defense wants to connect any sensor to any shooters, regardless of domain. For instance, one aspect of JADC2 is ensuring that data collected by space-based sensors can be processed, transferred to a command-and-control node where it can be fused with other sensor data, and distributed to the appropriate shooter in near-real time.

The Air Force has pursued this JADC2 vision by investing in the Advanced Battle Management System family of systems. ABMS seeks to bring the internet of things to the battlefield with an open architecture. The Air Force began testing ABMS last year and is set to conduct its next test in August or September.

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The Air Force contracts, with a ceiling of $950 million each, will provide maturation, demonstration and proliferation of JADC2-related capabilities across platforms and domains. Contractors will be expected to leverage open-system designs, modern software and algorithm developments to enable the JADC2 vision.
“The primary objective of this vehicle is to enable more rapid competition for tasks through the fair opportunity process to support the agile DevOps acquisition approach for ABMS development that allows competition to occur in as little as every four months based on the technical and operational learning that occurs leading up to and during the ABMS Combatant Commander Onramps and ongoing experimentation,” the Air Force noted in a statement.
The contracts were awarded in response to a Broad Agency Announcement released in February. A second onboarding round recently closed, and a third closes for submissions on August 31.

Several of the vendors selected are not traditional DoD contractors, highlighting the Air Force’s desire to include novel commercial approaches to ABMS.
“We want a wide variety of companies, and we definitely want fresh blood in the ABMS competition, so there is a lot that can be contributed from companies that are commercially focused, that know a lot about data, that know a lot about machine learning and [artificial intelligence] and know a lot about analytics. Those are going to be the most important parts of the Advanced Battle Management System,” Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Will Roper told reporters May 14.
While the announcement didn’t delineate what each of the vendors would bring to the table, multiple vendors on the contract have provided technologies that fit into the JADC2 concept as well. For example, Persistent Systems supports the Wave Relay Tactical Assault Kit program, which provides multidomain communications and situational awareness to Air Force convoys.
In a news release, Silvus Technologies announced it would supply its StreamCaster Mobile Ad hoc Networking radio systems for ABMS under the contract. Silvus says its technology can provide a high-bandwidth, tactical-edge network that connects assets across domains. That technology fits into meshONE, a part of ABMS focused on battlefield networks. MeshONE was used in the December 2019 ABMS test, and the new contract will provide more equipment for future tests.
No funds were issued at the time of the award. Work is expected to be completed May 26, 2025.

UPDATED: With further comment from the Air Force.

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Astroscale leaps into the satellite servicing fray

The American unit of Astroscale Holdings is entering the satellite life-extension market with the purchase of an Israeli company that specializes in developing on-orbit servicing solutions.Astroscale U.S. has acquired Effective Space Solutions, which develops life-extension solutions for satellites in geostationary orbit, or GEO. In addition to adding ESS’ intellectual property to its portfolio, Astroscale is hiring all of the company’s staff to form Astroscale Israel Ltd., which will remain in that country and serve as Astroscale’s research and development group for geostationary satellite life-extension services.

Astroscale, a global company based in Japan, is best known for its efforts to remove space debris from orbit. The company expects to demonstrate its end-of-life service later this year, which will see an Astroscale space vehicle capture debris and de-orbit it.

Is this the beginning of on orbit satellite servicing?
SpaceLogistics, a Northrop Grumman subsidiary, announced that their Mission Extension Vehicle-1 has docked with a commercial communications satellite, marking the start of a mission to extend the life of the satellite.

But with this purchase the company is scaling up its understanding of — and ambitions for — on-orbit servicing.
“Really, we’ve started thinking about the debris remediation part of the market as a subset of on-orbit services. It’s one thing you can do once you have a satellite up there that can rendezvous and dock with other satellites,” said Ron Lopez, president and managing director of Astroscale U.S. “We’re bringing all of those resources to bear to move into the GEO life-extension business, to complement what we’re doing in [low Earth orbit] LEO on the debris and the situational space awareness side.”
Astroscale claims that with its debris removal efforts in LEO and its new GEO life-extension effort, the company is now the only business solely dedicated to on-orbit servicing across all orbital regimes. Eventually, Astroscale could add satellite refueling, repair, upgrading, towing, salvage, situational space awareness and on-orbit manufacturing to its future portfolio for logistics services.

But for now, the company is focused on providing life-extension services — supplanting the exhausted fuel reserves of a client satellite with the propulsion provided by an attached space vehicle. ESS’ Space Drone platform will be used as the base for Astroscale’s first life-extension vehicle.

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Lopez couldn’t give a timeline for when the first life-extension mission would begin, stating that the timeline would be driven by customer demand. He added that he is in talks with potential customers.
Astroscale will face some stiff competition as it enters the still nascent satellite-servicing market. SpaceLogistics, a Northrop Grumman subsidiary, successfully docked its own space vehicle with a commercial GEO satellite in February, marking the beginning of the first-ever commercial satellite life-extension mission.
SpaceLogistics has also made important inroads with the Department of Defense. The company is working with the DoD to study the feasibility of providing life-extension services to four military satellites. And shortly after the firm’s successful docking with a commercial satellite in February, the company announced it will partner with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to field a pair of government-built robotic arms for on-orbit repairs.

Astroscale also sees the DoD as an important customer for any GEO servicing efforts.
“U.S. strategy right now is very heavily focused on space, specifically on building resiliency and achieving greater operational flexibility, which this kind of capability will allow U.S. government customers to do,” Lopez said.
The company does not have any DoD contracts to date, but Lopez said it’s in communication with key U.S. government stakeholders and has presented its solution to DoD representatives. Lopez also sees strong commercial interest in on-orbit servicing, which underpins the company’s business plan and would allow the government to leverage commercial prices.
Ultimately, Lopez believes Astroscale is well-positioned to compete.
“Even though we’re small, we’re nimble and we have a real, meaningful global footprint,” he said.

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Philadelphia Students Say National Guard Presence on Campus Makes Them ‘Feel Unsafe’

Students at Drexel University in Philadelphia are complaining to administrators over the use of a state-owned building on their campus as a National Guard headquarter, saying the presence of the troops makes them “feel uncomfortable and unsafe.”
The Guard members, who have been deployed to Philadelphia in response to the city’s growing levels of unrest, now occupy a building known as “the Armory,” which is owned by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and historically served as a recruiting station and command center for the National Guard’s 103rd Engineering Battalion.
“I do not condone the housing of the national guard at the armory on campus. Their presence has made many students feel uncomfortable and unsafe,” reads a sample letter shared on social media for students to send to university president John Fry. “Calling in the Guard is a dangerous overreaction to protesting that will likely lead to more brutality and more bloodshed, which will then be on Drexel’s hands and by association, on your hands.”
Fry responded in an email to the Drexel community that while he acknowledges their “anger, frustration, pain, and fear” caused by “seeing National Guard vehicles on or close to campus,” the university doesn’t own or fund the Armory, and therefore cannot bar the Commonwealth from using its space.
“I understand that this has been upsetting, particularly on top of the terrible incidents of the past week,” reads Fry’s email, which was posted to social media by students. “Please know that the university is not condoning violence against peaceful protesters or efforts to silence the voices that have risen up against racism in this country.”
The Philadelphia protests, as a part of nationwide outcry sparked by the death of George Floyd, started last Saturday and quickly descended into violence and destruction, prompting Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf to activate the state’s National Guard to support near-overwhelmed local law enforcement.
President Donald Trump recently called the situation in Philadelphia “a mess” during a video teleconference with governors, saying that the widespread violence in big cities such as Dallas, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia was “coming from the radical left.”
“If you’re weak and don’t dominate your streets, they’re going to stay with you until you finally do it,” the president told the governors, reported CBS News. “Philadelphia, you’d better toughen up, because what’s going on in Philadelphia, like New York, is terrible … You’ve got a big National Guard out there that’s ready to come in and fight like hell. I tell you, the best, what they did in Minneapolis was incredible.”
Trump’s comment came after he called Philadelphia out on Twitter, suggesting the city should call in the National Guard to help restore law and order.

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Severe Storms Threaten a 1,600-Mile Stretch of the US the Worst May Hit New York City

Clusters of strong to severe storms are likely Wednesday afternoon and evening from the northern Plains to the Atlantic Ocean—roughly a 1,600-mile stretch—including in major cities that in recent days have become hubs of protests over the death in police custody of George Floyd.
“Strong storms are expected in many cities that have seen nightly protests over the past several days,” CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller said. “The timing of the storms in the Northeast in cities such as New York City and Philadelphia, which should move through between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., could keep” protesters indoors.
Intense storms were already happening Wednesday morning across parts of the Midwest and Great Lakes, CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen said. These storms will become more widespread into the night.
“The greatest threat for severe storms—where there is a level 3 of 5, enhanced risk—includes Philadelphia, Newark, (New Jersey), and New York City,” Hennen said.
This enhanced risk area includes over 28 million people. Damaging winds are the primary threat, with hail and tornadoes also possible.
“The storms across the Northeast today will be moving fairly quickly,” CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said. “This will reduce some flooding possibilities but also limit reaction time to get inside.”
These storms could catch people off guard, especially if they are outside.
A level 2 of 5, slight risk, covers a wider zone, including major cities like Kansas City, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Columbus, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore.
And it isn’t just storms. The summer heat is building, and above-average temperatures stretch from coast to coast.

Places like Washington could see record high temperatures.(CNN)
Places like Washington could see record high temperatures.
“While Washington DC is not likely to see storms this afternoon, it will be the hottest day of the year so far, reaching the middle 90s, which brings a heat stress threat for those outside,” Miller said.
The above-average heat will continue Thursday across about two-thirds of the continental United States. Severe storms will also be possible again, although a little further south across the East Coast.
Thursday’s severe risk will stretch from the Central Plains—the area with the highest risk—to the Mid-Atlantic.
The CNN Wire contributed to this report.

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Airbus A400M cleared to drop more paratroopers through its side doors

PARIS – The Airbus A400M transport aircraft has been certified over the past few weeks for two capabilities: simultaneously dispatching 116 paratroopers (58 from each of the side doors) and automatic, low-level flight.

But this does not mean the air forces of the six partner nations of the A400M program (Belgium, France Germany, Spain, Turkey and the UK) can immediately use these capabilities in operational conditions. “There is a difference between certification and operational capability,” a press spokesman for the DGA French procurement agency told Defense News. He explained that the French Air Force has declared operational capability for 30 paratroopers to jump from one side door. “That means if the president orders the armed forces to undertake a mission where they would need to have 30 paratroopers jump from the side door, we could do so immediately,” he said.

Paratroopers can already deploy operationally two at a time in free fall from the aircraft’s rear ramp. With the deployment from the side doors, the parachute opens automatically. The French air force expects to be able to use both side doors operationally next year.

The certification flight test, completed in May 2020 in coordination with the DGA and supported by the French and Belgian Armed Forces, combined a paratrooping campaign of more than 1,000 jumps along with new methodologies based on recording and 3D modeling of paratrooper jump trajectories.

The A400M has also been certified for a first phase of Automatic Low Level Flight capability after a campaign flown down to 500 ft above the Pyrenees and central France. This phase concerns operations with Visual Flight Rules, in other words with visibility. The second phase will involve flying with no visibility.

Airbus notes in a press statement that this Automatic Low Level Flight (ALLF) capability is unique for a transport aircraft even if it is inherent for fighter aircraft. The company says it makes “the aircraft less detectable in hostile areas and less susceptible to threats when cruising towards key military operations like aerial delivery, air-to-air refueling, logistic or other specific special operations.”

The DGA says the new capability takes into account “the possibility of failures such as problems with the engines or the loss of lateral and/or vertical positioning.” The ALLF can be used either in fully automatic mode or following indications given by the flight director. “It will eventually allow the Air Force to fly very low mission altitudes in no-visibility conditions,” the DGA says.

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The first new A400M with these two capabilities will be delivered to the French Air Force in early 2021 but an aircraft already in service will be retrofitted with them before the end of this year.

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Retired Officer, Ex-College Athlete Among Victims of Unrest

One was a retired St. Louis police captain checking on his friend’s shop. Another was the beloved owner of a Louisville barbecue restaurant who provided free meals to officers. Yet another was a man known as “Mr. Indianapolis,” a former star football player.
They are among those killed as protests have roiled American cities in the week since the death of George Floyd, a black man who pleaded for air as a white Minneapolis officer kneeled on his neck.
The deaths, as well as widespread peaceful protests, have at times been overshadowed by the shocking images of heavy-handed police tactics, vandalism and arson. Dozens have been injured in the chaos.
Many of the people killed were African Americans, compounding the tragedy for black communities.
The death toll and circumstances of the killings are still being sorted out in many cities, but here is what we know so far:
ST. Louis

David Dorn, a 77-year-old retired St. Louis police officer who served 38 years on the force was shot and killed by looters at a pawn shop early on June 2, 2020. (Scott Bandle, Suburban Journals/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)
A 77-year-old retired St. Louis police captain who served 38 years on the force was shot and killed by looters at a pawn shop early on June 2, authorities said.
David Dorn was found dead on the sidewalk in front of the ransacked store. Police have not released details about what led to the shooting, and no one has been arrested.
The shooting apparently was streamed on Facebook Live but has been taken down. It came on a violent night in St. Louis, which saw four officers shot, businesses burned and ransacked, and people pelting officers with rocks hours following a peaceful protest.
Dorn was a friend of the pawn shop’s owner and frequently checked on the business when alarms went off, wife Ann Marie Dorn told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
David Dorn’s personality was “bigger than life,” said former St. Louis County police Chief Tim Fitch. “He was a fun guy, a happy guy.”
Dorn retired in October 2007 and then became police chief of Moline Acres, a small town north of St. Louis.
Louisville

Two women pray near the intersection where David McAtee was killed Sunday evening, Louisville, Ky., on June 2, 2020. (Darron Cummings/AP Photo)
Police and the National Guard troops trying to clear a crowd Monday heard gunshots and returned fire, killing David McAtee, the owner of a barbecue restaurant.
The mayor fired the police chief after finding out officers did not turn on their body-worn cameras. State police and the U.S. attorney also are investigating.
McAtee was a 53-year-old African American man known for offering free meals to officers who stopped by his restaurant.
“We lost a wonderful citizen,” Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said. “David was a friend to many, a well-known barbecue man.”
Acting police Chief Robert Schroeder said Tuesday that video from security cameras at McAtee’s business and an adjoining store showed McAtee firing a gun as officers approached.
“This video does not provide all the answers. But we are releasing it to provide transparency. It does not answer every question, including why did he fire and where were police at the time he fired,” Schroeder said.
The protests also have centered on the death of Breonna Taylor, a black woman killed in her Louisville home in March as narcotics detectives serving a search warrant knocked down her door. No drugs were found.
Oakland, California

A man paints a portrait of George Floyd in Los Angeles, Calif., on June 2, 2020. (Brent Stirton/Getty Images)
A federal officer was providing security at a U.S. courthouse during a protest when someone fired shots from a vehicle. Dave Patrick Underwood, 53, died and another officer was critically wounded.
It wasn’t immediately clear if the drive-by shooting was related to the protests, though the federal building’s glass doors were smashed and the front entrance was sprayed with anti-police graffiti. No one has been arrested.
Underwood, who was black, and the other officer were contracted security officers employed by the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Protective Service. They were monitoring a nearby protest.
Underwood was the brother of Angela Underwood Jacobs, recently a Republican candidate to fill a vacant congressional seat north of Los Angeles.
Indianapolis
Two people were killed this past weekend amid unrest, including 38-year-old Chris Beaty, a former offensive lineman for Indiana University.
Beaty was known as “Mr. Indianapolis” and remained involved with the Hoosiers long after graduation. He also was a prominent businessman, running multiple nightclubs.
“I am at a loss for words. The news of the passing of Chris Beaty is just devastating,” coach Tom Allen said in a statement. “Since I returned home to coach at Indiana, Chris embraced me, encouraged me and supported me! His passion for life and Indiana Football energized me every time we were together.”
The circumstances of Beaty’s shooting weren’t immediately clear, but some media reports said it happened near his apartment. It came the same night an 18-year-old man was fatally shot as protests erupted in the city.

A Walmart that had been looted by protesters, is seen in the Chicago neighborhood of Bronzeville, on June 1, 2020. (Cara Ding/The Epoch Times)
Davenport, Iowa
Police are investigating the deaths of 22-year-old Italia Kelly, who was shot Monday while leaving a protest outside a Walmart, and of a man found near where suspects exchanged gunfire with police in the city of 100,000 people across the Mississippi River from Illinois.
Kelly and a friend were getting in a vehicle to leave because a protest had turned unruly when she was struck in the back by a bullet, said her aunt, Amy Hale of Atchison, Kansas. No arrests have been made.
“She was always smiling, always laughing. That’s why it’s so sad that she was taken in such a violent way,” Hale said. “That is not Italia. She was the bright, bubbly big personality in the room.”
Separately, authorities said an officer was “ambushed” with gunfire Sunday. Another officer shot back, and the suspects fled but were arrested.
Near where the officer was wounded, police found a man shot to death and a handgun under his body. His identity wasn’t released.
Police said surveillance video shows that the man and some of the arrested suspects were involved in a shooting outside a jewelry store hours earlier. They were casing the business when other cars arrived and multiple people fired shots at each other, police said.

Protesters on the Manhattan Bridge in New York, N.Y. on June 2, 2020. (Scott Heins/Getty Images)
Minneapolis
In what is believed to be the first killing since the protests broke out, Calvin L. Horton Jr. was fatally shot outside a pawn shop last week.
The owner of the pawn shop, who is white, was arrested in the death of Horton, a 43-year-old black man. Police say they are investigating the circumstances of the killing, including whether it was related to protests in the neighborhood.
The shop was described as having been significantly damaged during the unrest.

The vandalized Lake Street/Midtown metro station after a night of protests and violence following the death of George Floyd, in Minneapolis, Minn., on May 29, 2020. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)
Omaha, Nebraska
James Scurlock, a 22-year-old black man, was killed Saturday after authorities said he tussled with the owner of two downtown bars. Surveillance video of the strip of bars shows a group of people, including Scurlock, approach white bar owner Jake Gardner.
Two people shove Gardner to the ground, and he fired shots in the air. Seconds later, Scurlock is seen jumping on Gardner, who then fires the gun over his shoulder, striking Scurlock.
Authorities have declined to press charges in the death, calling the shooting self-defense. But Gardner could still face misdemeanor gun charges because his concealed carry permit for the gun had expired, the police chief said.

Graffiti in downtown Omaha on May 31, 2020. (Anna Reed/Omaha World-Herald via AP)
Detroit
A 21-year-old man was killed in downtown Detroit after someone fired shots into a vehicle during a protest. According to a police report, the man was sitting in the driver’s seat of a car in a parking lot with two others when someone opened fire and then ran away.
Suburban Chicago
Two people were killed during unrest Monday in the suburb of Cicero, according to a town official. Spokesman Ray Hanania did not provide details about those who were killed but said it happened during protests.
By Lisa Marie Pane

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Defense Secretary Criticizes ‘Inaccurate’ Reporting on Trump Visit to Church, Tear Gas

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on Wednesday pushed back on what he described as “inaccurate” reporting by reporters from NBC News and other outlets about President Donald Trump’s visit to St. John’s Church and the alleged use of tear gas.
Media outlets across the world claimed that tear gas was used against protesters in Washington on Monday without providing evidence. But Esper told reporters at the Pentagon: “National Guard forces did not fire rubber bullets or tear gas into the crowd, as reported.”
The statement came after United States Park Police acting Chief Gregory Monahan said neither his officers nor other law enforcement officers used tear gas against demonstrators in Lafayette Park. Monahan also revealed that protesters began hurling projectiles and ignored warnings before force, including smoke canisters and pepper balls, was used.
The action was taken shortly before Trump and some top administration officials walked through the area.
Esper said he wasn’t briefed on the plans, nor should he have been.
Esper specifically addressed a story from NBC, without naming the outlet, which claimed that Esper said he wasn’t given notice before Trump led him and other officials to the church.

Protestors in Lafayette Square near the White House in Washington on June 1, 2020. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)
“I found it to be inaccurate in parts, so I want to state for all to hear what happened that Monday afternoon,” Esper said.
“I did know that following the president’s remarks on Monday evening that many of us were going to join President Trump and review the damage at Lafayette Park and St. John’s Episcopal Church. What I was not aware of was exactly where we were going when we arrived at the church and what the plans were once we got there,” he said.
NBC’s story said Esper was given “no notice” before he, Trump, and others went to the church.
NBC didn’t respond to an inquiry on whether the story would be updated and why the article didn’t include Monahan’s statement and whether it would be added.
NBC was one of dozens of media outlets that claimed tear gas was used, without providing evidence.

Attorney General William Barr, center, Secretary of Defense Mark Espe speak to National Guard forces in Washington on June 1, 2020. (Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images)
Esper and Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wanted to meet with and thank the members of the National Guard who were on duty in Lafayette Park. That wasn’t possible during the trip to the church, he said.
“But I was able to spend a considerable amount of time with our Guardsmen later that evening as I moved around the city to many of the locations at which they were posted,” Esper added.
Asked if he regretted traveling with Trump, Esper said: “I do everything I can to stay apolitical and stay out of situations that may appear political. Sometimes I’m successful in doing that, and sometimes I’m not as successful.”
An internal investigation is underway regarding a National Guard helicopter hovering low over protesters, Esper also said, including who requested the helicopter being used.
“I got a report back that they were asked by law enforcement to look at a National Guard checkpoint to see if there were protesters around,” Esper said. The inquiry will uncover what the facts are.
Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber

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Las Vegas Police Officer in ‘Grave Condition’ After Being Shot in Head: Officials

The Las Vegas police officer who was reportedly shot in the head on Monday is still in critical condition, officials said, as a 20-year-old suspect was taken into custody and charged with attempted murder.
Shay Mikalonis, 29, of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, is still on life support after the suspect, named by officials as Edgar Samaniego, opened fire on officers. Police were trying to disperse a group of protesters near the Circus Circus casino, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Assistant Sheriff Chris Jones identified Mikalonis as the victim, saying he is in “grave condition” as of Tuesday night.
According to Las Vegas police, Samaniego was apprehended after officials used surveillance footage. Investigators tracked him to a motel across the street from where the shooting occurred.

pic.twitter.com/UXn021E8LJ
— LVMPD (@LVMPD) June 2, 2020

It’s not clear if Samaniego was involved in the protests, which were sparked nationwide after the death of George Floyd in police custody.
“I know this is a difficult day for Nevada. And it’s during these trying times we must remind ourselves that creating a state where justice and peace exist together in partnership, not as a binary choice, is the goal we must all work toward,” Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak told Fox5.
“I am committed to doing all I can. I am praying for the LVMPD officer who was senselessly shot last night – there is no place for this behavior in Nevada. I am praying for all of the communities across Nevada who are experiencing grief and pain right now. Violence has no place in our communities and we must all work toward peaceful solutions together. As your Governor, I am committed to listening, heeding calls to action, and healing,” he said.
In a second shooting incident, authorities identified a man killed in a shooting in downtown Vegas. Officials told Fox5 that Jorge Gomez had three weapons and was initially struck by nonlethal rounds before he raised his firearm.
Then, police opened fire. He was taken to a local hospital before his death.
Authorities said protests in recent days have turned “progressively more violent,” with people throwing objects.
Across the United States, the demonstrations on Tuesday turned more peaceful. Earlier curfews and efforts by protesters to contain the lawlessness were credited with preventing more widespread damage to businesses in New York and other cities overnight.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Pentagon Chief Doesn’t Support Invoking Insurrection Act to Quell Unrest

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said the federal government should not invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807 that allows the president to deploy U.S. military and federalized National Guard troops within the United States in some instances. There was speculation President Donald Trump may use the law to quell civil unrest across the country.
“I’ve always believed and continue to believe that the National Guard is best suited for performing domestic support to civil authorities in these situations in support of local law enforcement,” Esper told reporters at a news conference Wednesday.
He added that he is saying that “also as a former soldier and a former member of the National Guard, the option to use active-duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort and only in the most urgent and dire of situations.”
Amid the sometimes violent protests, looting, vandalism, and arson over the death of George Floyd last week, Esper noted that the U.S. is “not in one of those situations now” where the Insurrection Act needs to be used.
On Monday, President Trump suggested that he could invoke the federal law to respond to the unrest if governors fail to act.
The Insurrection Act has been used only sparingly but was invoked throughout the 19th century, namely during conflicts with Native Americans. It was also used to enforce federally mandated desegregation efforts in the 20th century, with Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy invoking the law in opposition to state leaders.

Protestors run as riot police fire tear gas and move on demonstrators to clear Lafayette Park and the area around it across from the White House, in Washington, on June 1, 2020. (Reuters/Ken Cedeno)
The act was also invoked during the 1992 Los Angeles riots by the late President George H.W. Bush. It was first used by third President Thomas Jefferson to deal with Embargo Act violations in 1808.
In explaining why he might invoke the law, Trump said on Monday: “If a city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.”
It came after Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said Monday that the president should use it to deploy active-duty troops to cities impacted by riots and violence.
“What the president can do is say that justice will be done in accordance with law for George Floyd and we will always respect the right of peaceful protests … but the rioting, the anarchy and the looting ends tonight. If local law enforcement is overwhelmed … lets see how these anarchists respond when the 101st Airborne is on the other side of the street,” Cotton told Fox News.

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More Than 70 Premium Cars Stolen From Dealership During California Looting

Police in Northern California are searching for suspects after looters stole more than 70 premium cars in the Bay Area on Sunday, according to a dealership owner and authorities. San Leandro Chrysler Dodge Jeep dealership owner Carlos Hidalgo told FOX2 in Oakland that he blocked the exits but thieves “started ramming, ramming until they could get […]

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Pentagon Moves Troops Into Washington Region Amid Riots

The Department of Defense moved about 1,600 troops near Washington as rioting continued in multiple U.S. cities. The movement was described as “a prudent planning measure in response to ongoing support to civil authorities operations” by Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Rath Hoffman. Movement took place by military aircraft. Infantry troops assigned to a force based at […]

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